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•^'*'" ./y5<fc 

To George Lyman Kittredge 






DEC 2 I 1965 I 




The poetic Edda 
Translated from the Icelandic with an 
introduction and notes by Henry Adams 

New York; The American-Scandinavian 
Foundation, 1923 


General Introduction xi 

Lays of the Gods 

Voluspo I 

Hovamol 28 

Vafthruthnismol 68 

Grimnismol 84 

Skirnismol 107 

Harbarthsljoth 121 

Hymiskvitha 138 

Lokasenna 151 

Thrymskvitha 174 

Alvissmol 183 

Baldrs Draumar 195 

Rigsthula 201 

Hyndluljoth 217 

Svipdagsmol 234 

Lays of the Heroes 

Volundarkvitha 252 

Helgakvitha Hjorvarthssonar 269 

Helgakvitha Hundingsbana I 290 

Helgakvitha Hundingsbana H 309 

Fra Dautha Sinfjotla 332 

Gripisspo 337 

Reginsmol 356 

• For the phonetic spellings of the proper names see the Pronouncins 

Contents — Continued 

Fafnismol 370 

Sigrdrifumol 386 

Brot af Sigurtharlcvithu 402 

Guthrunarkvitha I 411 

Sigurtharkvitha en Skamma 420 

Helreith Brynhildar 442 

Drap Niflunga 447 

Guthrunarkvitha II, en Forna 450 

Guthrunarkvitha III 465 

Oddrunargratr 469 

Atlakvitha en Gronlenzka 480 

Atlamol en Gronlenzku 499 

Guthrunarhvot 53^ 

Hamthesmol 545 


The General Introduction mentions many of 
the scholars to whose work this translation owes 
a special debt. Particular reference, however, 
should here be made to the late William Henry 
Schofield, Professor of Comparative Literature in 
, Harvard University and President of The Amer- 
ican-Scandinavian Foundation, under whose guid- 
ance this translation was begun; to Henry God- 
dard Leach, for many years Secretary of The 
American-Scandinavian Foundation, and to Wil- 
liam Witherle Lawrence, Professor of English in 
Columbia University and Chairman of the 
Foundation's Committee on Publications, for their 
assistance with the manuscript and the proofs ; and 
to Hanna Astrup Larsen, the Foundation's lit- 
erary secretary, for her efficient management of 
the complex details of publication. 


THERE is scarcely any literary work of great im- 
portance which has been less readily available for 
the general reader, or even for the serious student of 
literature, than the Poetic Edda. Translations have been 
far from numerous, and only in Germany has the complete 
work of translation been done in the full light of recent 
scholarship. In English the only versions were long the 
conspicuously inadequate one made by Thorpe, and pub- 
hshed about half a century ago, and the unsatisfactory 
prose translations in Vigfusson and Powell's Corpus Poeti- 
cum Boreale, reprinted in the Norrcena collection. An 
excellent translation of the poems dealing with the gods, 
in verse and with critical and explanatory notes, made by 
Olive Bray, was, however, published by the Viking Club of 
London in 1908. In French there exist only partial trans- 
lations, chief among them being those made by Bergmann 
many years ago. Among the seven or eight German ver- 
sions, those by the Brothers Grimm and by Karl Simrock, 
which had considerable historical importance because of 
their influence on nineteenth century German literature 
and art, and particularly on the work of Richard Wagner, 
have been largely superseded by Hugo Gering's admirable 
translation, published in 1892, and by the recent two- 
volume rendering by Genzmer, with excellent notes by 
Andreas Heusler, 19 14- 1920. There are competent trans- 
lations in both Norwegian and Swedish. The lack of any 
complete and adequately annotated English rendering in 
metrical form, based on a critical text, and profiting by 
the cumulative labors of such scholars as Mogk, Vigfusson, 



Finnur Jonsson, Grundtvig, Bugge, Gislason, Hildebrand, 
Liining, Sweet, Niedner, Ettmiiller, Miillenhoff, Edzardi, 
B. M. Olsen, Sievers, Sijmons, Detter, Heinzel, Falk, 
Neckel, Heusler, and Gering, has kept this extraordinary 
work practically out of the reach of those who have had 
neither time nor inclination to master the intricacies of the 
original Old Norse. 

On the importance of the material contained in the 
Poetic Edda it is here needless to dwell at any length. We 
have inherited the Germanic traditions in our very speech, 
and the Poetic Edda is the original storehouse of Germanic 
mythology. It is, indeed, in many ways the greatest literary 
monument preserved to us out of the antiquity of the kin- 
dred races which we call Germanic. Moreover, it has a 
literary value altogether apart from its historical signifi- 
cance. The mythological poems include, in the Voluspo, one 
of the vastest conceptions of the creation and ultimate de- 
struction of the world ever crystallized in literary form ; in 
parts of the Hovamol, a collection of wise counsels that 
can bear comparison with most of the Biblical Book of 
Proverbs; in the Lokasenna, a comedy none the less full 
of vivid characterization because its humor is often broad ; 
and in the Thrymskvitha, one of the finest ballads in the 
world. The hero poems give us, in its oldest and most vivid 
extant form, the story of Sigurth, Brynhild, and Atli, the 
Norse parallel to the German Nibelungenlied. The Poetic 
Edda is not only of great interest to the student of antiq- 
uity ; it is a collection including some of the most remark- 
able poems which have been preserved to us from the 
period before the pen and the printing-press replaced the 
poet-singer and oral tradition. It is above all else the de- 



sire to make better known the dramatic force, the vivid and 
often tremendous imagery, and the superb conceptions em- 
bodied in these poems which has called forth the present 


Even if the poems of the so-called Edda were not so sig- 
nificant and intrinsically so valuable, the long series of 
scholarly struggles which have been going on over them 
for the better part of three centuries would in itself give 
them a peculiar interest. Their history is strangely mys- 
terious. We do not know who composed them, or when 
or where they were composed; we are by no means sure 
who collected them or when he did so ; finally, we are not 
absolutely certain as to what an "Edda" is, and the best 
guess at the meaning of the word renders its application to 
this collection of poems more or less misleading. 

A brief review of the chief facts in the history of the 
Poetic Edda will explain why this uncertainty has per- 
sisted. Preserved in various manuscripts of the thirteenth 
and early fourteenth centuries is a prose work consisting 
of a very extensive collection of mythological stories, an 
explanation of the important figures and tropes of Norse 
poetic diction, — the poetry of the Icelandic and Norwegian 
ikalds was appallingly complex in this respect, — and a treat- 
ise on metrics. This work, clearly a handbook for poets, 
was commonly known as the "Edda" of Snorri Sturluson, 
for at the head of the copy of it in the Uppsalabok, a man- 
uscript written presumably some fifty or sixty years after 
Snorri's death, which was in 1241, we find: "This book is 
called Edda, which Snorri Sturluson composed." This 
work, well known as the Prose Edda, Snorri's Edda or the 

[ xiii ] 


Younger Edda, has recently been made available to readers 
of English in the admirable translation by Arthur G. 
Brodeur, published by the American-Scandinavian Foun- 
dation in 19 16. 

Icelandic tradition, however, persisted in ascribing either 
this Edda or one resembling it to Snorri's much earlier 
compatriot, Saemund the Wise (1056-1 133). When, early 
in the seventeenth century, the learned Arngrimur Jonsson 
proved to everyone's satisfaction that Snorri and nobody 
else must have been responsible for the work in question, 
the next thing to determine was what, if anything, Saemund 
had done of the same kind. The nature of Snorri's book 
gave a clue. In the mythological stories related a number 
of poems were quoted, and as these and other poems were 
to all appearances Snorri's chief sources of information, it 
was assumed that Saemund must have written or compiled 
a verse Edda — whatever an "Edda" might be — on which 
Snorri's work was largely based. 

So matters stood when, in 1643, Brynjolfur Sveinsson, 
Bishop of Skalholt, discovered a manuscript, clearly written 
as early as 1300, containing twenty-nine poems, complete 
or fragmentary, and some of them with the very lines and 
stanzas used by Snorri. Great was the joy of the scholars, 
for here, of course, must be at least a part of the long-sought 
Edda of Saemund the Wise. Thus the good bishop promptly 
labeled his find, and as Sasmund's Edda, the Elder Edda 
or the Poetic Edda it has been known to this day. 

This precious manuscript, now in the Royal Library in 
Copenhagen, and known as the Codex Regius (R2365), 
has been the basis for all published editions of the Eddie 
poems. A few poems of similar character found elsewhere 



have subsequently been added to the collection, until now 
most editions include, as in this translation, a total of 
thirty-four. A shorter manuscript now in the Arnamagnsean 
collection in Copenhagen (AM748), contains fragmen- 
tary or complete versions of six of the poems in the Codex 
Regius, and one other, Baldrs Draumar, not found in that 
collection. Four other poems {Rigsthula, Hyndluljothj 
Grougaldr and Fjolsvinnsmol, the last two here combined 
under the title of Svipdagsmol) , from various manuscripts, 
so closely resemble in subject-matter and style the poems 
in the Codex Regius that they have been included by most 
editors in the collection. Finally, Snorri's Edda contains 
one complete poem, the Grottasongr, which many editors 
have added to the poetic collection; it is, however, not 
included in this translation, as an admirable English ver- 
sion of it is available in Mr. Brodeur's rendering of Snorri's 

From all this it is evident that the Poetic Edda, as we 
now know it, is no definite and plainly limited work, but 
rather a more or less haphazard collection of separate 
poems, dealing either with Norse mythology or with hero- 
cycles unrelated to the traditional history of greater Scan- 
dinavia or Iceland. How many other similar poems, now 
lost, may have existed in such collections as were current 
in Iceland in the later twelfth and thirteenth centuries we 
cannot know, though it is evident that some poems of this 
type are missing. We can say only that thirty-four poems 
have been preserved, twenty-nine of them in a single manu- 
script collection, which differ considerably in subject-mat- 
ter and style from all the rest of extant Old Norse poetry, 
and these we group together as the Poetic Edda. 



But what does the word "Edda" mean? Various guesses 
have been made. An early assumption was that the word 
somehow meant "Poetics," which fitted Snorri's treatise 
to a nicety, but which, in addition to the lack of philologi- 
cal evidence to support this interpretation, could by no 
stretch of scholarly subtlety be made appropriate to the 
collection of poems. Jacob Grimm ingeniously identified 
the word with the word "edda" used in one of the poems, 
the Rigsthula, where, rather conjecturally, it means 
"great-grandmother." The word exists in this sense no- 
where else in Norse literature, and Grimm's suggestion of 
"Tales of a Grandmother," though at one time it found 
wide acceptance, was grotesquely inappropriate to either 
the prose or the verse work. 

At last Eirikr Magnusson hit on what appears the likeli- 
est solution of the puzzle : that "Edda" is simply the gen- 
itive form of the proper name "Oddi." Oddi was a settle- 
ment in the southwest of Iceland, certainly the home of 
Snorri Sturluson for many years, and, traditionally at 
least, also the home of Sasmund the Wise. That Snorri's 
work should have been called "The Book of Oddi" is al- 
together reasonable, for such a method of naming books 
was common — witness the "Book of the Flat Island" and 
other early manuscripts. That Saemund may also have 
written or compiled another "Oddi-Book" is perfectly 
possible, and that tradition should have said he did so is 
entirely natural. 

It is, however, an open question whether or not Saemund 
had anything to do with making the collection, or any part 
of it, now known as the Poetic Edda, for of course the 
seventeenth-century assignment of the work to him is neg- 

[ xvi ] 


ligible. We can say only that he may have made some such 
compilation, for he was a diligent student of Icelandic tra- 
dition and history, and was famed throughout the North 
for his learning. But otherwise no trace of his works sur- 
vives, and as he was educated in Paris, it is probable that 
he wrote" rather in Latin than in the vernacular. 

All that is reasonably certain is that by the middle or 
last of the twelfth century there existed in Iceland one or 
more written collections of Old Norse mythological and 
heroic poems, that the Codex Regius, a copy made a hun- 
dred years or so later, represents at least a considerable 
part of one of these, and that the collection of thirty-four 
poems which we now know as the Poetic or Elder Edda is 
practically all that has come down to us of Old Norse 
poetry of this type. Anything more is largely guesswork, 
and both the name of the compiler and the meaning of the 
title "Edda" are conjectural. 


There is even less agreement about the birthplace, 
authorship and date of the Eddie poems themselves than 
about the nature of the existing collection. Clearly the 
poems were the work of many different men, living in 
different periods ; clearly, too, most of them existed in oral 
tradition for generations before they were first committed 
to writing. In general the mythological poems are strongly 
heathen in character, and as Christianity became generally 
accepted throughout Norway and Iceland early in the elev- 
enth century, it is altogether likely that most of the poems 
dealing with the Norse gods antedate the year looo. On 
the other hand, Hoffory, Finnur Jonsson and others have 
shown pretty conclusively from linguistic evidence that 

[ xvii ] 


these poems cannot have assumed anything like their pres- 
ent form before the ninth century. As for the poems be- 
longing to the hero cycles, one or two of them appear to 
be as late as iioo, but most of them clearly belong to the 
hundred years following 950. It is a fairly safe guess that 
the years between 900 and 1050 saw the majority of the 
Eddie poems put into shape, but it must be remembered 
that many changes took place during the long subsequent 
period of oral transmission, and also that many of the 
legends, both mythological and heroic, on which the poems 
were based, certainly existed in Norway, and quite pos- 
sibly in verse form, long before the year 900. In consider- 
ing such poems it is essential to forget the present mode 
of composition, whereby a poet at once fixes his thought 
and his style by means of writing, and to remember that for 
at least two centuries, and possibly much longer, the cor- 
rect transmission of many of the Eddie poems depended 
solely on accurate hearing and retentive memory. 

As to the origin of the legends on which the poems are 
based, the whole question, at least so far as the stories of 
the gods are concerned, is much too complex for discus- 
sion here. How much of the actual narrative material of 
the mythological lays is properly to be called Scandinav- 
ian is a matter for students of comparative mythology to 
guess at. The tales underlying the heroic lays are clearly of 
foreign origin : the Helgi story comes from Denmark, and 
that of Volund from Germany, as also the great mass of 
traditions centering around Sigurth (Siegfried), Brynhild, 
the sons of Gjuki, Atli (Attila) , and Jormunrek (Ermana- 
rich). The introductory notes to the various poems deal 
with the more important of these questions of origin. 



Of the men who composed these poems, — "wrote" is 
obviously the wrong word, — we know absolutely nothing, 
save that some of them must have been literary artists with 
a high degree of conscious skill.* The Eddie poems are 
"folk-poetry," — whatever that may be, — only in the sense 
that some of them strongly reflect racial feelings and be- 
liefs; they are anything but crude or primitive in work- 
manship, and they show that not only the poets themselves, 
but also many of their hearers, must have made a careful 
study of the art of poetry. 

Where the poems were composed is almost equally un- 
certain. The claims of Norway have been extensively ad- 
vanced, but the great literary activity of Iceland after the 
settlement of the island by Norwegian emigrants late in 
the ninth century makes the theory of an Icelandic source 
for most of the poems plausible. The two Atli lays, with 
what authority we do not know, bear in the Codex Regius 
the superscription "the Greenland poem," and internal 
evidence indicates that this statement is correct. Certainly 
in one poem, the Rigsthula, and probably in several others, 
there are marks of Celtic influence. During a considerable 
part of the ninth and tenth centuries, Scandinavians were 
active in Ireland and in most of the western islands in- 
habited by branches of the Celtic race. Some scholars claim 
nearly all the Eddie poems for these "Western Isles," in 
sharp distinction from Iceland; their arguments are com- 
mented on in the introductory note to the Rigsthula. How- 
ever, as Iceland early came to be the true center of this 
Scandinavian island world, it may be said that most of the 
evidence concerning the birthplace of the Eddie poems in 
anything like their present form points in that. direction. 



and certainly it was in Iceland that they were chiefly pre- 


Within the proper limits of an introduction it would 
be impossible to give any adequate summary of the history 
and literature with which the Eddie poems are indissolubly 
connected, but a mere mention of a few of the salient facts 
may be of some service to those who are unfamiliar with 
the subject. Old Norse literature covers approximately 
the period between 850 and 1300. During the first part of 
that period occurred the great wanderings of the Scandi- 
navian peoples, and particularly the Norwegians. A con- 
venient date to remember is that of the sea-fight of Hafrs- 
fjord, 872, when Harald the Fair-Haired broke the power 
of the independent Norwegian nobles, and made himself 
overlord of nearly all the country. Many of the defeated 
nobles fled overseas, where inviting refuges had been 
found for them by earlier wanderers and plunder-seeking 
raiders. This was the time of the inroads of the dreaded 
Northmen in France, and in 885 Hrolf Gangr (Rollo) 
laid siege to Paris itself. Many Norwegians went to Ire- 
land, where their compatriots had already built Dublin, 
and where they remained in control of most of the island 
till Brian Boru shattered their power at the battle of 
Clontarf in 1014. 

Of all the migrations, however, the most important 
were those to Iceland. Here grew up an active civilization, 
fostered by absolute independence and by remoteness from 
the wars which wracked Norway, yet kept from degener- 
ating into provincialism by the roving life of the people, 
which brought them constantly in contact with the culture 



of the South. Christianity, introduced throughout the 
Norse world about the year icxx), brought with it the sta- 
bility of learning, and the Icelanders became not only the 
makers but also the students and recorders of history. 

The years between 875 and iioo were the great spon- 
taneous period of oral literature. Most of the military and 
political leaders were also poets, and they composed a mass 
of lyric poetry concerning the authorship of which we know 
a good deal, and much of which has been preserved. Narra- 
tive prose also flourished, for the Icelander had a passion 
for story-telling and story-hearing. After iioo came the 
day of the writers. These sagamen collected the material 
that for generations had passed from mouth to mouth, 
and gave it permanent form in writing. The greatest bulk 
of what we now have of Old Norse literature, — and the 
published part of it makes a formidable library, — originated 
thus in the earlier period before the introduction of writing, 
and was put into final shape by the scholars, most of them 
Icelanders, of the hundred years following 1 150. 

After 1250 came a rapid and tragic decline. Iceland lost 
its independence, becoming a Norwegian province. Later 
Norway too fell under alien rule, a Swede ascending the 
Norwegian throne in 1320. Pestilence and famine laid 
waste the whole North; volcanic disturbances worked 
havoc in Iceland. Literature did not quite die, but it fell 
upon evil days; for the vigorous native narratives and 
heroic poems of the older period were substituted trans- 
lations of French romances. The poets wrote mostly dog- 
gerel; the prose writers were devoid of national or racial 

The mass of literature thus collected and written down 



largely between 1 150 and 1250 may be roughly divided into 
four groups. The greatest in volume is made up of the 
sagas : narratives mainly in prose, ranging all the way from 
authentic history of the Norwegian kings and the early 
Icelandic settlements to fairy-tales. Embodied in the sagas 
is found the material composing the second group: the 
skaldic poetry, a vast collection of songs of praise, triumph, 
love, lamentation, and so on, almost uniformly character- 
ized by an appalling complexity of figurative language. 
There is no absolute line to be drawn between the poetry 
of the skalds and the poems of the Edda, which we may 
call the third group; but in addition to the remarkable 
artificiality of style which marks the skaldic poetry, and 
which is seldom found in the poems of the Edda, the skalds 
dealt almost exclusively with their own emotions, whereas 
the Eddie poems are quite impersonal. Finally, there is 
the fourth group, made up of didactic works, religious and 
legal treatises, and so on, studies which originated chiefly 
in the later period of learned activity. 


Most of the poems of the Poetic Edda have unquestion- 
ably reached us in rather bad shape. During the long pe- 
riod of oral transmission they suffered all sorts of inter- 
polations, omissions and changes, and some of them, as 
they now stand, are a bewildering hodge-podge of little- 
related fragments. To some extent the diligent twelfth 
century compiler to whom we owe the Codex Regius — 
Saemund or another — was himself doubtless responsible for 
the patchwork process, often supplemented by narrative 
prose notes of his own ; but in the days before written rec- 
ords existed, it was easy to lose stanzas and longer pas- 

[xxii ] 


cages from their context, and equally easy to interpolate 
them where they did not by any means belong. Some few 
of the poems, however, appear to be virtually complete 
and unified as we now have them. 

Under such circumstances it is clear that the establish- 
ment of a satisfactory text is a matter of the utmost diffi- 
culty. As the basis for this translation I have used the text 
prepared by Karl Hildebrand (1876) and revised by Hugo 
Gtring (1904). Textual emendation has, however, been 
so extensive in every edition of the Edda, and has depended 
so much on the theories of the editor, that I have also made 
extensive use of many other editions, notably those by 
Finnur Jonsson, Neckel, Sijmons, and Detter and Heinzel, 
together with numerous commentaries. The condition of 
the text in both the principal codices is such that no great 
reliance can be placed on the accuracy of the copyists, and 
frequently two editions will differ fundamentally as to 
their readings of a given passage or even of an entire poem. 
For this reason, and because guesswork necessarily plays 
so large a part in any edition or translation of the Eddie 
poems, I have risked overloading the pages with textual 
notes in order to show, as nearly as possible, the exact state 
of the original together with all the more significant emen- 
dations. I have done this particularly in the case of trans- 
positions, many of which appear absolutely necessary, and 
in the indication of passages which appear to be interpola- 


The many problems connected with the verse-forms 
found in the Eddie poems have been analyzed in great de- 
tail by Sievers, Neckel, and others. The three verse-forms 

[ xxiii ] 


sxempHfied in the poems need only a brief comment here, 
however, in order to make clear the method used in this 
translation. All of these forms group the lines normally 
in four-line stanzas. In the so-called Fomyrthislag ("Old 
Verse"), for convenience sometimes referred to in the 
notes as four-four measure, these lines have all the same 
itructure, each line being sharply divided by a caesural pause 
into two half-lines, and each half-line having two accented 
syllables and two (sometimes three) unaccented ones. 
The two half-lines forming a complete line are bound 
together by the alliteration, or more properly initial-rhyme, 
of three (or two) of the accented syllables. The following 
is an example of the Fomyrthislag stanza, the accented 
syllables being in italics : 

Vreipr vas Ving\>6TX, es vakna\ii 

ok sins hamzTS of sakna\ii ; 

skegg nam hrista, skgr nam dy]a., 

rej) Jarp2Lr burr umb at preifzsV. 
In the second form, the Ljothahattr ("Song Measure"), 
the first and third line of each stanza are as just described, 
but the second and fourth are shorter, have no caesural 
pause, have three accented syllables, and regularly two 
initial-rhymed accented syllables, for which reason I have 
occasionally referred to Ljothahattr as four-three meas- 
ure. The following is an example: 

Ar skal ma sas dinars vUl 
fe e^a fjgr hafz ; 

ligg]dSid.\ ulfr sjaldan Ider of getr 
ne i-o/andi majtr sigr. 
In the third and least commonly used form, the Mala- 
hattr ("Speech Measure"), a younger verse-form than 


either of the other two, each line of the four-line stanza is 
divided into two half-lines by a csesural pause, each half- 
line having two accented syllables and three (sometimes 
four) unaccented ones; the initial rhyme is as in the For- 
nyrthislag. The following is an example: 

Horsk vas Awffreyja, huff\>i at mannviti, 
lag heyrjji or/a, hvat a laun mdeltu; 
\>a. vas vant vitri, vildi \)e\m hjalpa.: 
skyldu of sde sigla., en sjglf ne kvamskzt. 
A poem in Fornyrthislag is normally entitled -kvitha 
(Thrymskvitha, Guthrunarkvitha, etc.). which for con- 
venience I have rendered as "lay," while a poem in 
Ljothahattr is entitled -mol {Grimnismol, Skirnismol, 
etc.). which I have rendered as "ballad." It is difficult to 
find any distinction other than metrical between the two 
terms, although it is clear that one originally existed. 

Variations frequently appear in all three kinds of verse, 
and these I have attempted to indicate through the rhythm 
of the translation. In order to preserve so far as possible 
the effect of the Eddie verse, I have adhered, in making 
the English version, to certain of the fundamental rules 
governing the Norse line and stanza formations. The 
number of lines to each stanza conforms to what seems the 
best guess as to the original, and I have consistently re- 
tained the number of accented syllables. In translating 
from a highly inflected language into one depending largely 
on the use of subsidiary words, it has, however, been nec- 
essary to employ considerable freedom as to the number of 
unaccented syllables in a line. The initial-rhyme is gener- 
ally confined to two accented syllables in each line. As in 
the original, all initial vowels are allowed to rhyme inter- 

[ XXV ] 


changeably, but I have disregarded the rule which lets 
certain groups of consonants rhyme only with themsei 's 
{e.g., I have allowed initial s or st to rhyme with sk or 
si). In general, I have sought to preserve the effect of the 
original form whenever possible without an undue sacrifice 
of accuracy. For purposes of comparison, the translations 
of the three stanzas just given are here included : 

IVUd was VingXhox when he awoke. 

And when his mighty hammer he missed; 

He shook his beard, his hair was bristling, 

To groping set the son of Jorth. 

He must early go forth who fain the blood 
Or the goods of another would get; 

The wolf that lies idle shall win little meat. 
Or the sleeping man snccess. 
Malahattr : 

Wise was the woman, she fain would use w'wdom, 

She saw well what meant all they said in x^cret; 

From her heart it was hid how /ie//> she might 

The sea they should sail, while herself she should ^o 


The forms in which the proper names appear in this 
translation will undoubtedly perplex and annoy those who 
have become accustomed to one or another of the current 
methods of anglicising old Norse names. The nominative 
ending -r it has seemed best to omit after consonants, 
although it has been retained after vowels; in Baldr the 



final -r is a part of the stem and is of course retained. I 
h^t/c rendered the Norse t by "th" throughout, instead of 
spasmodically by "d," as in many texts: e. ff., Othin in- 
stead of Odin. For the Norse I have used its equiva- 
lent, "6," e. g., Volund ; for the 9 I have used "o" and not 
"a," e. g., Voluspo, not Valuspa or Voluspa. To avoid 
confusion with accents the long vowel marks of the Ice- 
landic are consistently omitted, as likewise in modern 
Icelandic proper names. The index at the end of the book 
indicates the pronunciation in each case. 


That this translation may be of some value to those who 
can read the poems of the Edda in the original language I 
earnestly hope. Still more do I wish that it may lead a 
few who hitherto have given little thought to the Old 
Norse language and literature to master the tongue for 
themselves. But far above either of these I place the hope 
that this English version may give to some, who have 
known little of the ancient traditions of what is after all 
their own race, a clearer insight into the glories of that 
extraordinary past, and that I may through this medium 
be able to bring to others a small part of the delight which 
I myself have found in the poems of the Poetic Edda. 

[ xxvii ] 





The Wise-Woman's Prophecy 

Introductory Note 

At the beginning of the collection in the Codex Regius stands 
the Voluspo, the most famous and important, as it is likewise 
the most debated, of all the Eddie poems. Another version of it 
is found in a huge miscellaneous compilation of about the year 
1300, the Hauksbok, and many stanzas are included in the Prose 
Edda of Snorri Sturluson. The order of the stanzas in the 
Hauksbok version differs materially from that in the Codex 
Regius, and in the published editions many experiments have 
been attempted in further rearrangements. On the whole, how- 
ever, and allowing for certain interpolations, the order of the 
stanzas in the Codex Regius seems more logical than any of 
the wholesale "improvements" which have been undertaken. 

The general plan of the Voluspo is fairly clear. Othin, chief 
of the gods, always conscious of impending disaster and eager 
for knowledge, calls on a certain "Volva," or wise-woman, pre- 
sumably bidding her rise from the grave. She first tells him of 
the past, of the creation of the world, the beginning of years, 
the origin of the dwarfs (at this point there is a clearly inter- 
polated catalogue of dwarfs* names, stanzas io-i6), of the first 
man and woman, of the world-ash Yggdrasil, and of the first 
war, between the gods and the Vanir, or, in Anglicized form, the 
Wanes. Then, in stanzas 27-29, as a further proof of her 
wisdom, she discloses some of Othin's own secrets and the de- 
tails of his search for knowledge. Rewarded by Othin for what 
she has thus far told (stanza 30), she then turns to the real 
prophesy, the disclosure of the final destruction of the gods. 
This final battle, in which fire and flood overwhelm heaven and 
earth as the gods fight with their enemies, is the great fact in Norse 
mythology; the phrase describing it, ragna rok, "the fate of the 
gods," has become familiar, by confusion with the word rbkkr, 
"twilight," in the German Goiter ddmmerung. The wise-woman 
tells of the Valkyries who bring the slain warriors to support 
Othin and the other gods in the battle, of the slaying of Baldr, 
best and fairest of the gods, through the wiles of Loki, of the 
enemies of the gods, of the summons to battle on both sides, and 
of the mighty struggle, till Othin is slain, and "fire leaps high 


Poetic Edda 

about heaven itself" (stanzas 31-58). But this is not all. A 
new and beautiful world is to rise on the ruins of the old; 
Baldr comes back, and "fields unsowed bear ripened fruit" 
(stanzas 59-66). 

This final passage, in particular, has caused wide differences 
of opinion as to the date and character of the poem. That the 
poet was heathen and not Christian seems almost beyond dis- 
pute; there is an intensity and vividness in almost every stanza 
which no archaizing Christian could possibly have achieved. 
On the other hand, the evidences of Christian influence are 
sufficiently striking to outweigh the arguments of Finnur Jonsson, 
Mullenhoff and others who maintain that the Voluspo is purely 
a product of heathendom. The roving Norsemen of the tenth 
century, very few of whom had as yet accepted Christianity, 
were nevertheless in close contact with Celtic races which had 
already been converted, and in many ways the Celtic influence 
was strongly felt. It seems likely, then, that the Voluspo was the 
work of a poet living chiefly in Iceland, though possibly in the 
"Western Isles," in the middle of the tenth century, a vigorous 
believer in the old gods, and yet with an imagination active 
enough to be touched by the vague tales of a different religion 
emanating from his neighbor Celts. 

How much the poem was altered during the two hundred 
years between its composition and its first being committed to 
writing is largely a matter of guesswork, but, allowing for such 
an obvious interpolation as the catalogue of dwarfs, and for 
occasional lesser errors, it seems quite needless to assume such 
great changes as many editors do. The poem was certainly not 
composed to tell a story with which its early hearers were quite 
familiar; the lack of continuity which baffles modern readers 
presumably did not trouble them in the least. It is, in effect, a 
series of gigantic pictures, put into words with a directness and 
sureness which bespeak the poet of genius. It is only after the 
reader, with the help of the many notes, has familiarized him- 
self with the names and incidents involved that he can begin to 
understand the effect which this magnificent poem must have 
produced on those who not only understood but believed it 



1. Hearing I ask from the holy races, 

From Heimdall's sons, both high and low; 
Thou wilt, Valfather, that well I relate 
Old tales I remember of men long ago. 

2. I remember yet the giants of yore, 
Who gave me bread in the days gone by ; 
Nine worlds I knew, the nine in the tree 
With mighty roots beneath the mold. 

1. A few editors, following Bugge, in an effort to clarify 
the poem, place stanzas 22, 28 and 30 before stanzas 1-20, but 
the arrangement in both manuscripts, followed here, seems 
logical. In stanza i the Volva, or wise-woman, called upon by 
Othin, answers him and demands a hearing. Evidently she be- 
longs to the race of the giants (cf. stanza 2), and thus speaks to 
Othin unwillingly, being compelled to do so by his magic power. 
Holy: omitted in Regius; the phrase "holy races" probably means 
little more than mankind in general. Heimdall: the watchman 
of the gods; cf. stanza 46 and note. Why mankind should be 
referred to as Heimdall's sons is uncertain, and the phrase has 
caused much perplexity. Heimdall seems to have had various at- 
tributes, and in the Rtgsthula, wherein a certain Rig appears 
as the ancestor of the three great classes of men, a fourteenth 
century annotator identifies Rig with Heimdall, on what au- 
thority we do not know, for the Rig of the poem seems much 
more like Othin (cf. Rtgsthula, introductory prose and note). 
Valfather ("Father of the Slain") : Othin, chief of the gods, so 
called because the slain warriors were brought to him at Val- 
hall ("Hall of the Slain") by the Valkyries ("Choosers of the 

2. Nine worlds: the worlds of the gods (Asgarth), of the 
Wanes (Vanaheim, cf. stanza 21 and note), of the elves (Alf- 
heim), of men (Mithgarth), of the giants (Jotunheim), of fire 
(Muspellsheim, cf. stanza 47 and note), of the dark elves 
(Svartalfaheim), of the dead (Niflheim), and presumably of 
the dwarfs (perhaps Nithavellir, cf. stanza 37 and note, but 
the ninth world is uncertain). The tree: the world-ash Yggdrasil, 


Poetic Edda 

3. Of old was the age when Ymir lived; 
Sea nor cool waves nor sand there were ; 
Earth had not been, nor heaven above, 
But a yawning gap, and grass nowhere. 

4. Then Bur's sons lifted the level land, 
Mithgarth the mighty there they made; 

The sun from the south warmed the stones of 

And green was the ground with growing leeks. 

5. The sun, the sister of the moon, from the south 
Her right hand cast over heaven's rim; 

No knowledge she had where her home should be, 
The moon knew not what might was his. 
The stars knew not where their stations were. 

symbolizing the universe; cf. Grimnismol, 29-35 ^"d notes, 
wherein Yggdrasil is described at length. 

3. Ymir: the giant out of whose body the gods made the 
•world; cf. Vafthruthnismol, 21. In this stanza as quoted in 
Snorri's Edda the first line runs: "Of old was the age ere 
aught there was." Yaivning gap: this phrase, "Ginnunga-gap," 
is sometimes used as a proper name. 

4. Bur's sons: Othin, Vili, and Ve. Of Bur we know only that 
his wife was Bestla, daughter of Bolthorn; cf. Hovamol, 141. 
Vili and Ve are mentioned by name in the Eddie poems only in 
Lokasenna, 26. Mithgarth ("Middle Dwelling") ; the world of 
men. Leeks: the leek was often used as the symbol of fine 
growth (cf. Guthrunarkvitha I, 17), and it was also supposed to 
have magic power (cf. Sigrdriftimol, 7). 

5. Various editors have regarded this stanza as interpolated; 
HoflFory thinks it describes the northern summer night in which 
the sun does not set. Lines 3-5 are quoted by Snorri. In the 
manuscripts line 4 follows line 5. Regarding the sun and moon 



6. Then sought the gods their assembly-seats, 
The holy ones, and council held; 

Names then gave they to noon and twilight, 
Morning they named, and the waning moon. 
Night and evening, the years to number. 

7. At Ithavoll met the mighty gods, 
Shrines and temples they timbered high; 
Forges they set, and they smithied ore, 
Tongs they wrought, and tools they fashioned. 

8. In their dwellings at peace they played at tables. 
Of gold no lack did the gods then know, — 
Till thither came up giant-maids three. 

Huge of might, out of Jotunheim. 

as daughter and son of Mundilferi, cf. Vafthruthnismol, 23 and 
note, and Grimnismol, 37 and note. 

6. Possibly an interpolation, but there seems no strong reason 
for assuming this. Lines 1-2 are identical with lines 1-2 of 
stanza 9, and line 2 may have been inserted here from that later 

7. Ithavoll ("Field of Deeds"?): mentioned only here and 
in stanza 60 as the meeting-place of the gods; it appears in no 
other connection. 

8. Tables: the exact nature of this game, and whether it 
more closely resembled chess or checkers, has been made the 
subject of a 400-page treatise, Willard Fiske's "Chess in Ice- 
land." Giant-maids: perhaps the three great Norns, correspond- 
ing to the three fates ; cf . stanza 20 and note. Possibly, however, 
something has been lost after this stanza, and the missing 
passage, replaced by the catalogue of the dwarfs (stanzas 9-16), 
may have explained the "giant-maids" otherwise than as Norns. 
In Vafthruthnismol, 49, the Norns (this time "three throngs" in- 
stead of simply "three") are spoken of as giant-maidens; 


Poetic Edda 

9. Then sought the gods their assembly-seats, 
The holy ones, and council held. 
To find who should raise the race of dwarfs 
Out of Brimir's blood and the legs of Blain. 

fo. There was Motsognir the mightiest made 
Of all the dwarfs,. ^ and Durin next ; 
Many a likeness of men they made, 
The dwarfs in the earth, as Durin said. 

II. Nyi and Nithi, Northri and Suthri, 
Austri and Vestri, Althjof, Dvalin, 
Nar and Nain, Niping, Dain, 
Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, Nori, 
An and Onar, Ai, Mjothvitnir. 

Fafnismol, 13, indicates the existence of many lesser Norns, be- 
longing to various races. Jotunheim : the world of the giants. 

9. Here apparently begins the interpolated catalogue of the 
dwarfs, running through stanza 16; possibly, however, the in- 
terpolated section does not begin before stanza u. Snorri quotes 
practically the entire section, the names appearing in a some- 
what changed order. Brimir and Blain: nothing is known of 
these two giants, and it has been suggested that both are names 
for Ymir (cf. stanza 3). Brimir, however, appears in stanza 37 
in connection with the home of the dwarfs. Some editors treat 
the words as common rather than proper nouns, Brimir meaning 
'the bloody moisture" and Blain being of uncertain significance. 

10. Very few of the dwarfs named in this and the following 
stanzas are mentioned elsewhere. It is not clear why Durin 
should have been singled out as authority for the list. The oc- 
casional repetitions suggest that not all the stanzas of the cata- 
logue came from the same source. Most of the names presumably 
had some definite significance, as Northri, Suthri, Austri, and 
Vestri ("North," "South," "East," and "West"), Althjof 



12. Vigg and Gandalf, Vindalf, Thrain, 
Thekk and Thorin, Thror, Vit and Lit, 
Nyr and Nyrath, — now have I told — 
Regin and Rathsvith — the list aright. 

13. Fili, Kili, Fundin, Nali, 
Heptifili, Hannar, Sviur, 

Frar, Hombori, Fraeg and Loni, 
Aurvang, Jari, Eikinskjaldi. 

14. The race of the dwarfs in Dvalin's throng 
Down to Lof ar the list must I tell ; 

The rocks they left, and through wet lands 
They sought a home in the fields of sand. 

15. There were Draupnir and Dolgthrasir, 
Hor, Haugspori, Hlevang, Gloin, 

("Mighty Thief"), Mjothvitnir ("Mead- Wolf"), Gandalf 
("Magic Elf"), Vindalf ("Wind Elf"), Rathsvith ("Swift in 
Counsel"), Eikinskjaldi ("Oak Shield"), etc., but in many cases 
the interpretations are sheer guesswork. 

12. The order of the lines in this and the succeeding four 
stanzas varies greatly in the manuscripts and editions, and the 
names likewise appear in many forms. Regin: probably not 
identical with Regin the son of Hreithmar, who plays an im- 
portant part in the Reginsmol and Fafnismol, but cf. note on 
Reginsmol, introductory prose. 

14. Dvalin'. in Hovamol, 144, Dvalin seems to have given 
magic runes to the dwarfs, probably accounting for their skill 
in craftsmanship, while in Fafnismol, 13, he is mentioned as 
the father of some of the lesser Norns. The story that some of 
the dwarfs left the rocks and mountains to find a new home on 
the sands is mentioned, but unexplained, in Snorri's Edda; of 
Lofar we know only that he was descended from these wanderers. 


Poetic Edda 

Dori, Ori, Duf, Andvari, 
Skirfir, Virfir, Skafith, Ai. 

i6. Alf and Yngvi, Eikinskjaldi, 

Fjalar and Frosti, Fith and Ginnar; 
So for all time shall the tale be known, 
The list of all the forbears of Lofar. 

17. Then from the throng did three come forth, 
From the home of the gods, the mighty and 

gracious ; 
Two without fate on the land they found, 
Ask and Embla, empty of might. 

18. Soul they had not, sense they had not, 
Heat nor motion, nor goodly hue ; 
Soul gave Othin, sense gave Honir, 
Heat gave Lothur and goodly hue. 

15. Andvari: this dwarf appears prominently in the Regins- 
mol, which tells how the god Loki treacherously robbed him of 
his wealth ; the curse which he laid on his treasure brought about 
the deaths of Sigurth, Gunnar, Atli, and many others. 

17. Here the poem resumes its course after the interpolated 
section. Probably, however, something has been lost, for there is 
no apparent connection between the three giant-maids of stanza 
8 and the three gods, Othin, Honir and Lothur, who in stanza 17 
go forth to create man and woman. The word "three" in stanzas 
8 and 17 very likely confused some early reciter, or perhaps the 
compiler himself. Ask and Embla: ash and elm; Snorri gives 
them simply as the names of the first man and woman, but says 
that the gods made this pair out of trees. 

18. Honir: little is known of this god, save that he occasion- 
ally appears in the poems in company with Othin and Loki, and 



19. An ash I know, Yggdrasil its name, 
With water white is the great tree wet; 
Thence come the dews that fall in the dales, 
Green by Urth's well does it ever grow. 

20. Thence come the maidens mighty in wisdom, 
Three from the dwelling down 'neath the tree; 
Urth is one named, Verthandi the next, — 

On the wood they scored, — and Skuld the third. 
Laws they made there, and life allotted 
To the sons of men, and set their fates. 

that he survives the destruction, assuming in the new age the 
gift of prophesy (cf. stanza 63). He was given by the gods as a 
hostage to the Wanes after their war, in exchange for Njorth 
(cf. stanza 21 and note). Lothur: apparently an older name 
for Loki, the treacherous but ingenious son of Laufey, whose 
divinity Snorri regards as somewhat doubtful. He was adopted 
by Othin, who subsequently had good reason to regret it. Loki 
probably represents the blending of two originally distinct 
figures, one of them an old fire-god, hence his gift of heat to the 
newly created pair. 

19. Yggdrasil'. cf. stanza 2 and note, and Grimnismol, 29-35 
and notes. Urth ("The Past") : one of the three great Norns. 
The world-ash is kept green by being sprinkled with the mar- 
velous healing water from her well. 

20. The maidens: the three Norns; possibly this stanza 
should follow stanza 8. Dwelling: Regius has "sae" (sea) instead 
of "sal" (hall, home), and many editors have followed this 
reading, although Snorri's prose paraphrase indicates "sal." 
Urth, Verthandi and Skuld: "Past," "Present" and "Future." 
Wood, etc.: the magic signs (runes) controlling the destinies of 
men were cut on pieces of wood. Lines 3-4 are probably inter- 
polations from some other account of the Norns. 


Poetic Edda 

21. The war I remember, the first in the world, 
When the gods with spears had smitten Gollveig, 
And in the hall of Hor had burned her, — 
Three times burned, and three times born, 
Oft and again, yet ever she lives. 

22. Heith they named her who sought their home, 
The wide-seeing witch, in magic wise; 
Minds she bewitched that were moved by her 

To evil women a joy she was. 

21. This follows stanza 20 in Regius; in the Hauksbok version 
stanzas 25, 26, 27, 40 and 41 come between stanzas 20 and 21. 
Editors have attempted all sorts of rearrangements. The 'luar: 
the first war was that between the gods and the Wanes. The 
cult of the Wanes (Vanir) seems to have originated among the 
seafaring folk of the Baltic and the southern shores of the North 
Sea, and to have spread thence into Norway in opposition to the 
worship of the older gods; hence the "war." Finally the two 
types of divinities were worshipped in common; hence the 
treaty which ended the war with the exchange of hostages. 
Chief among the Wanes were Njorth and his children, Freyr and 
Freyja, all of whom became conspicuous among the gods. Be- 
yond this we know little of the Wanes, who seem originally to 
have been water-deities. / remember: the manuscripts have "she 
remembers," but the Volva is apparently still speaking of her 
own memories, as in stanza 2. Gollveig ("Gold-Might") : appar- 
ently the first of the Wanes to come among the gods, her ill- 
treatment being the immediate cause of the war. Miillenhoff 
maintains that Gollveig is another name for Freyja. Lines 5-6, 
one or both of them probably interpolated, seem to s3'mbolize the 
refining of gold by fire. Hot ("The High One") : Othin. 

22. Heith ("Shining One"?): a name often applied to wise- 
women and prophetesses. The application of this stanza to 
Gollveig is far from clear, though the reference may be to the 



23. On the host his spear did Othin hurl, 
Then in the world did war first come; 
The wall that girdled the gods was broken, 
And the field by the warlike Wanes was trodden. 

24. Then sought the gods their assembly-seats, 
The holy ones, and council held, 
Whether the gods should tribute give. 

Or to all alike should worship belong. 

25. Then sought the gods their assembly-seats. 
The holy ones, and council held, 

To find who with venom the air had filled. 
Or had given Oth's bride to the giants* brood. 

magic and destructive power of gold. It is also possible that 
the stanza is an interpolation. Bugge maintains that it applies to 
the Volva who is reciting the poem, and makes it the opening 
stanza, following it with stanzas 28 and 30, and then going on 
with stanzas i if. The text of line 2 is obscure, and has been 
variously emended. 

23. This stanza and stanza 24 have been transposed from the 
order in the manuscripts, for the former describes the battle and 
the victory of the Wanes, after which the gods took council, de- 
bating whether to pay tribute to the victors, or to admit them, 
as was finally done, to equal rights of worship. 

25. Possibly, as Finn Magnusen long ago suggested, there is 
something lost after stanza 24, but it was not the custom of the 
Eddie poets to supply transitions which their hearers could 
generally be counted on to understand. The story referred to 
in stanzas 25-26 (both quoted by Snorri) is that of the rebuild- 
ing of Asgarth after its destruction by the Wanes. The gods em- 
ployed a giant as builder, who demanded as his reward the sun 
and moon, and the goddess Freyja for his wife. The gods, ter- 
rified by the rapid progress of the work, forced Loki, who had 
advised the bargain, to delay the giant by a trick, so that the 


Poetic Edda 

26. In swelling rage then rose up Thor, — 
Seldom he sits when he such things hears, — 
And the oaths were broken, the words and bonds, 
The mighty pledges between them made. 

27. I know of the horn of Heimdall, hidden 
Under the high-reaching holy tree; 

On it there pours from Valfather's pledge 

A mighty stream: would you know yet more? 

work was not finished in tlie stipulated time (cf. Gritnnismol, 44, 
note). The enraged giant then threatened the gods, whereupon 
Thor slew him. 0th' s bride: Freyja; of Oth little is known be- 
yond the fact that Snorri refers to him as a man who "went 
away on long journeys." 

26. Thor: the thunder-god, son of Othin and Jorth (Earth) ; 
cf . particularly Harbarthsljoth and Thrymskvitha, passim. Oaths, 
etc.: the gods, by violating their oaths to the giant who rebuilt 
Asgarth, aroused the undying hatred of the giants' race, and 
thus the giants were among their enemies in the final battle. 

27. Here the Volva turns from her memories of the past to a 
statement of some of Othin's own secrets in his eternal search for 
knowledge (stanzas 27-29). Bugge puts this stanza after stanza 
29. The horn of Heimdall: the Gjallarhorn ("Shrieking Horn"), 
with which Heimdall, watchman of the gods, will summon them 
to the last battle. Till that time the horn is buried under 
Yggdrasil. Valfather's pledge: Othin's eye (the sun?), which 
he gave to the water-spirit Mimir (or Mim) in exchange for 
the latter's wisdom. It appears here and in stanza 29 as a drink- 
ing-vessel, from which Mimir drinks the magic mead, and from 
which he pours water on the ash Yggdrasil. Othin's sacrifice of 
his eye in order to gain knowledge of his final doom is one 
of the series of disasters leading up to the destruction of the 
gods. There were several differing versions of the story of 
Othin's relations with Mimir; another one, quite incompatible 
with this, appears in stanza 47. In the manuscripts / knotu and 
/ see appear as "she knows" and "she sees" (cf. note on 21). 



28. Alone I sat when the Old One sought me, 
The terror of gods, and gazed in mine eyes : 
"What hast thou to ask ? why comest thou hither ? 
Othin, I know where thine eye is hidden." 

29. I know where Othin's eye is hidden, 
Deep in the wide-famed well of Mimir; 
Mead from the pledge of Othin each morn 
Does Mimir drink: would you know yet more? 

30. Necklaces had I and rings from Heerfather, 
Wise was my speech and my magic wisdom ; 

Widely I saw over all the worlds. 

28. The Hauksbok version omits all of stanzas 28-34, stanza 
27 being there followed by stanzas 40 and 41. Regius indicates 
stanzas 28 and 29 as a single stanza. Bugge puts stanza 28 after 
stanza 22, as the second stanza of his reconstructed poem. The 
Volva here addresses Othin directly, intimating that, although 
he has not told her, she knows why he has come to her, and 
what he has already suffered in his search for knowledge re- 
garding his doom. Her reiterated "would you know yet more?" 
seems to mean: "I have proved my wisdom by telling of the 
past and of your own secrets; is it your will that I tell likewise 
of the fate in store for you?" The Old One: Othin. 

29. The first line, not in either manuscript, is a conjectural 
emendation based on Snorri's paraphrase. Bugge puts this stanza 
after stanza 20. 

30. This is apparently the transitional stanza, in which the 
Volva, rewarded by Othin for her knowledge of the past (stanzas 
1-29), is induced to proceed with her real prophecy (stanzas 
31-66). Some editors turn the stanza into the third person, 
making it a narrative link. Bugge, on the other hand, puts it 


Poetic Edda 

31. On all sides saw I Valkyries assemble, 
Ready to ride to the ranks of the gods; 
Skuld bore the shield, and Skogul rode next, 
Guth, Hild, Gondul, and Geirskogul. 

Of Herjan's maidens the list have ye heard, 
Valkyries ready to ride o'er the earth. 

32. I saw for Baldr, the bleeding god, 
The son of Othin, his destiny set: 

after stanza 28 as the third stanza of the poem. No lacuna is 
indicated in the manuscripts, and editors have attempted various 
emendations. Heer father ("Father of the Host") : Othin. 

31. Valkyries: these "Choosers of the Slain" (cf. stanza i, 
note) bring the bravest warriors killed in battle to Valhall, in 
order to re-enforce the gods for their final struggle. They are 
also called "Wish-Maidens," as the fulfillers of Othin's wishes. 
The conception of the supernatural warrior-maiden was pre- 
sumably brought to Scandinavia in very early times from the 
South-Germanic races, and later it was interwoven with the 
likewise South-Germanic tradition of the swan-maiden. A third 
complication developed when the originally quite human women 
of the hero-legends were endowed with the qualities of both 
Valkyries and swan-maidens, as in the cases of Brynhild (cf. 
Gripisspo, introductory note), Svava (cf. Hetgakvitha Hjor- 
varthssonar, prose after stanza 5 and note) and Sigrun (cf. 
Helgakvitha Hundingsbana I, 17 and note). The list of names 
here given may be an interpolation; a quite different list is 
given in Grimnismol, 36. Ranks of the gods: some editors regard 
the word thus translated as a specific place name. Herjan 
("Leader of Hosts") : Othin. It is worth noting that the name 

Hild ("Warrior") is the basis of Bryn-hild ("Warrior in Mail- 

32. Baldr: The death of Baldr, the son of Othin and Frigg, 
was the first of the great disasters to the gods. The story is fully 
told by Snorri. Frigg had demanded of all created things, saving 
only the mistletoe, which she thought too weak to be worth trou- 



Famous and fair in the lofty fields, 

Full grown in strength the mistletoe stood. 

33. From the branch which seemed so slender and 

Came a harmful shaft that Hoth should hurl ; 
But the brother of Baldr was born ere long, 
And one night old fought Othin's son. 

34. His hands he washed not, his hair he combed not, 
Till he bore to the bale-blaze Baldr's foe. 

But in Fensalir did Frigg weep sore 

For Valhall's need: would you know yet more? 

35. One did I see In the wet woods bound, 
A lover of ill, and to Loki like ; 

bling about, an oath that they would not harm Baldr. Thus it 
came to be a sport for the gods to hurl weapons at Baldr, who, 
of course, was totally unharmed thereby. Loki, the trouble-maker, 
brought the mistletoe to Baldr's blind brother, Hoth, and guided 
his hand in hurling the twig. Baldr was slain, and grief came 
upon all the gods. Cf. Baldrs Draumar. 

33. The lines in this and the following stanza have been 
combined in various ways by editors, lacunae having been freely 
conjectured, but the manuscript version seems clear enough. 
The brother of Baldr: Vali, whom Othin begot expressly to 
avenge Baldr's death. The day after his birth he fought and slew 

34. Frigg: Othin's wife. Some scholars have regarded her as 
a solar myth, calling her the sun-goddess, and pointing out that 
her home in Fensalir ("the sea-halls") symbolizes the daily 
setting of the sun beneath the ocean horizon. 

35. The translation here follows the Regius version. The 
Hauksbok has the same final two lines, but in place of the first 


Poetic Edda 

By his side does Sigyn sit, nor is glad 

To see her mate : would you know yet more ? 

36. From the east there pours through poisoned vales 
With swords and daggers the river Slith. 

37. Northward a hall in Nithavellir 
Of gold there rose for Sindri's race; 
And in Okolnir another stood, 
Where the giant Brimir his beer-hall had. 

pair has, "I know that Vali his brother gnawed, / With his 
bowels then was Loki bound." Many editors have followed 
this version of the whole stanza or have included these two 
lines, often marking them as doubtful, with the four from 
Regius. After the murder of Baldr, the gods took Loki and bound 
him to a rock with the bowels of his son Narfi, who had just 
been torn to pieces by Loki's other son, Vali. A serpent was 
fastened above Loki's head, and the venom fell upon his face. 
Loki's wife, Sigyn, sat by him with a basin to catch the venom, 
but whenever the basin was full, and she went away to empty it, 
then the venom fell on Loki again, till the earth shook with his 
struggles. "And there he lies bound till the end." Cf. Lokasenna, 
concluding prose. 

36. Stanzas 36-39 describe the homes of the enemies of the 
gods: the giants (36), the dwarfs (37), and the dead in the 
land of the goddess Hel (38-39). The Hauksbok version omits 
stanzas 36 and 37. Regius unites 36 with 37, but most editors 
have assumed a lacuna. Slith ("the Fearful") : a river in the 
giants' home. The "swords and daggers" may represent the icy 

37. Nithavellir ("the Dark Fields") : a home of the dwarfs. 
Perhaps the word should be "Nithafjoll" ("the Dark Crags"). 
Sindri: the great worker in gold among the dwarfs. Okolnir 



38. A hall I saw, far from the sun, 

On Nastrond it stands, and the doors face north ; 
Venom drops through the smoke-vent down, 
For around the walls do serpents wind. 

39. I saw there wading through rivers wild 
Treacherous men and murderers too. 
And workers of ill with the wives of men ; 
There Nithhogg sucked the blood of the slain, 
And the wolf tore men; would you know yet 


("the Not Cold") : possibly a volcano. Brimir: the giant (pos- 
sibly Ymir) out of whose blood, according to stanza 9, the 
dwarfs were made; the name here appears to mean simply the 
leader of the dwarfs. 

38. Stanzas 38 and 39 follow stanza 43 in the Hauksbok ver- 
sion. Snorri quotes stanzas 38, 39, 40 and 41, though not consecu- 
tively. Nastrond ("Corpse-Strand") : the land of the dead, ruled 
by the goddess Hel. Here the wicked undergo tortures. Smoke- 
vent: the phrase gives a picture of the Icelandic house, with its 
opening in the roof serving instead of a chimney. 

39. The stanza is almost certainly in corrupt form. The 
third line is presumably an interpolation, and is lacking in most 
of the late paper manuscripts. Some editors, hbwever, have 
called lines 1-3 the remains of a full stanza, with the fourth 
line lacking, and lines 4-5 the remains of another. The stanza 
depicts the torments of the two worst classes of criminals known 
to Old Norse morality — oath-breakers and murderers. Nithhogg 
("the Dread Biter") : the dragon that lies beneath the ash 
Yggdrasil and gnaws at its roots, thus sj^mbolizing the destruc- 
tive elements in the universe; cf. Grimnismol, 32, 35. The ivolf: 
presumably the wolf Fenrir, one of the children of Loki and the 
giantess Angrbotha (the others being Mithgarthsorm and the 
goddess Hel), who was chained by the gods with the marvelous 
chain Gleipnir, fashioned by a dwarf "out of six things: the 


Poetic Edda 

40. The giantess old in Ironwood sat, 

In the east, and bore the brood of Fenrir ; 
Among these one in monster's guise 
Was soon to steal the sun from the sky. 

41. There feeds he full on the flesh of the dead, 
And the home of the gods he reddens with gore ; 
Dark grows the sun, and in summer soon 
Come mighty storms : would you know yet more ? 

42. On a hill there sat, and smote on his harp, 
Eggther the joyous, the giants' warder; 
Above him the cock in the bird-wood crowed. 
Fair and red did Fjalar stand. 

noise of a cat's step, the beards of women, the roots of mountains, 
the nerves of bears, the breath of fishes, and the spittle of birds." 
The chaining of Fenrir cost the god Tyr his right hand; cf. 
stanza 44. 

40. The Hauksbok version inserts after stanza 39 the refrain- 
stanza (44.), and puts stanzas 40 and 41 between 27 and 21. 
With this stanza begins the account of the final struggle itself. 
The giantess: her name is nowhere stated, and the only other 
reference to Ironwood is in Grimnismoi, 39, in this same con- 
nection. The children of this giantess and the wolf Fenrir are 
the wolves Skoll and Hati, the first of whom steals the sun, the 
second the moon. Some scholars naturally see here an eclipse- 

41. In the third line many editors omit the comma after 
"sun," and put one after "soon," making the two lines run: 
"Dark grows the sun in summer soon, / Mighty storms — " 
etc. Either phenomenon in summer would be sufficiently striking. 

42. In the Hauksbok version stanzas 42 and 43 stand between 
stanzas 44 and 38. Eggther: this giant, who seems to be the 
watchman of the giants, as Heimdall is that of the gods and Surt 
of the dwellers in the fire-world, is not mentioned elsewhere in 



43. Then to the gods crowed Gollinkambi, 
He wakes the heroes in Othin's hall; 
And beneath the earth does another crow, 
The rust-red bird at the bars of Hel. 

44. Now Garm howls loud before Gnipahellir, 
The fetters will burst, and the wolf run free ; 
Much do I know, and more can see 

Of the fate of the gods, the mighty in fight. 

45. Brothers shall fight and fell each other, 
And sisters' sons shall kinship stain; 

the poems. Fjalar, the cock whose crowing wakes the giants for 
the final struggle. 

43. Gollinkambi ("Gold-Comb") : the cock who wakes the gods 
and heroes, as Fjalar does the giants. The rust-red bird: the 
name of this bird, who wakes the people of Hel's domain, is 
nowhere stated. 

44. This is a refrain-stanza. In Regius it appears in full 
only at this point, but is repeated in abbreviated form before 
stanzas 50 and 59. In the Hauksbok version the full stanza comes 
first between stanzas 35 and 42, then, in abbreviated form, it 
occurs four times: before stanzas 45, 50, 55, and 59. In the 
Hauksbok line 3 runs: "Farther I see and more can say." 
Garm: the dog who guards the gates of Hel's kingdom; cf. 
Baldrs Draumar, 2 ff, and Grimnismol, 44. Gniparhellir ("the 
Cliff-Cave") : the entrance to the world of the dead. The luolf: 
Fenrir; cf. stanza 39 and note. 

45. From this point on through stanza 57 the poem is quoted 
by Snorri, stanza 49 alone being omitted. There has been much 
discussion as to the status of stanza 45. Lines 4 and 5 look like 
an interpolation. After line 5 the Hauksbok has a line running: 
"The world resounds, the witch is flying." Editors have 
arranged these seven lines in various ways, with lacunae freely 
indicated. Sisters' sons: in all Germanic countries the relations 
between uncle and nephew were felt to be particularly close. 


Poetic Edda 

Hard is it on earth, with mighty whoredom ; 
Axe- time, sword-time, shields are sundered, 
Wind-time, wolf-time, ere the world falls; 

Nor ever shall men each other spare. 

46. Fast move the sons of Mim, and fate 
Is heard in the note of the Gjallarhorn ; 
Loud blows Heimdall, the horn is aloft. 
In fear quake all who on Hel-roads are. 

47* Yggdrasil shakes, and shiver on high 
The ancient limbs, and the giant is loose ; 
To the head of Mim does Othin give heed. 
But the kinsman of Surt shall slay him soon. 

46. Regius combines the first three lines of this stanza with 
lines 3, 2, and i of stanza 47 as a single stanza. Line 4, not found 
in Regius, is introduced from the Hauksbok version, where it 
follows line 2 of stanza 47. The sons of Mim: the spirits of the 
water. On Mim (or Mimir) cf. stanza 27 and note. Gjallarhorn: 
the "Shrieking Horn" with which Heimdall, the watchman of 
the gods, calls them to the last battle. 

47. In Regius lines 3, 2, and i, in that order, follow stanza 46 
without separation. Line 4 is not found in Regius, but is intro- 
duced from the Hauksbok version. Yggdrasil: cf. stanza 19 and 
note, and Grimnismol, 29-35. ^^^ giant: Fenrir. The head of 
Mim: various myths were current about Mimir. This stanza 
refers to the story that he was sent by the gods with Honir as a 
hostage to the Wanes after their war (cf. stanza 21 and note), 
and that the Wanes cut off his head and returned it to the gods. 
Othin embalmed the head, and by magic gave it the power of 
speech, thus making Mimir's noted wisdom always available. Of 
course this story does not fit with that underlying the references 
to Mimir in stanzas 27 and 29. The kinsman of Surt: the wolf 



48. How fare the gods? how fare the elves? 

All Jotunheim groans, the gods are at council ; 
Loud roar the dwarfs by the doors of stone, 
The masters of the rocks: would you know yet 

49. Now Garm howls loud before Gnipahellir, 
The fetters will burst, and the wolf run free; 
Much do I know, and more can see 

Of the fate of the gods, the mighty in fight. 

50. From the east comes Hrym with shield held high ; 
In giant-wrath does the serpent writhe ; 

O'er the waves he twists, and the tawny eagle 
Gnaws corpses screaming; Naglfar is loose. 

Fenrir, who slays Othin in the final struggle; cf. stanza 53. 
Surt is the giant who rules the fire-world, Muspellsheim; cf. 
stanza 52. 

48. This stanza in Regius follows stanza 51 ; in the Hauksbok 
it stands, as here, after 47. Jotunheim: the land of the giants. 

49. Identical with stanza 4^. In the manuscripts it Is here 

50. Hrym: the leader of the giants, who comes as the helms- 
man of the ship Naglfar (line 4). The serpent: Mithgarthsorra, 
one of the children of Loki and Angrbotha (cf. stanza 39, note). 
The serpent was cast into the sea, where he completely encircles 
the land; cf. especially Hymiskvitha, passim. The eagle: the 
giant Hrassvelg, who sits at the edge, of heaven in the form of 
an eagle, and makes the winds with his wings; cf. Vafthruthnis- 
mol, 37, and Skirnismol, 27. Naglfar: the ship which was made 
out of dead men's nails to carry the giants to battle. 


Poetic Edda 

51. O'er the sea from the north there sails a ship 
With the people of Hel, at the helm stands Loki ; 
After the wolf do wild men follow, 

And with them the brother of Byleist goes. 

52. Surt fares from the south with the scourge of 


The sun of the battle-gods shone from his sword ; 

The crags are sundered, the giant-women sink, 

The dead throng Hel-way, and heaven is cloven. 

53. Now comes to Hlin yet another hurt. 
When Othin fares to fight with the wolf, 
And Beli's fair slayer seeks out Surt, 
For there must fall the joy of Frigg. 

51. North: a guess; the manuscripts have "east," but there 
seems to be a confusion with stanza 50, line i. People of Hel: 
the manuscripts have "people of Muspell," but these came over 
the bridge Bifrost (the rainbow), which broke beneath them, 
whereas the people of Hel came in a ship steered by Loki. The 
nvolf: Fenrir. The brother of Byleist: Loki. Of Byleist (or 
Byleipt) no more is known. 

52. Surt: the ruler of the fire-world. The scourge of branches: 
fire. This is one of the relatively rare instances in the Eddie 
poems of the type of poetic diction which characterizes the skaldic 

53. Hlin: apparently another name for Frigg, Othin's wife. 
After losing her son Baldr, she is fated now to see Othin slain by 
the wolf Fenrir. Beli's slayer: the god Freyr, who killed the 
giant Beli with his fist;,cf. Skirnismol, 16 and note. On Freyr, 
who belonged to the race of the Wanes, and was the brother of 
Freyja, see especially Skirnismol, passim. The joy of Frigg: 



54. Then comes Sigfather's mighty son, 
Vithar, to fight with the foaming wolf ; 

In the giant's son does he thrust his sword 
Full to the heart : his father is avenged. 

55. Hither there comes the son of Hlothyn, 
The bright snake gapes to heaven above ; 

Against the serpent goes Othin's son. 

56. In anger smites the warder of earth, — 
Forth from their homes must all men flee ; — 
Nine paces fares the son of Fjorgyn, 

And, slain by the serpent, fearless he sinks. 

54. As quoted by Snorri the first line of this stanza runs: 
"Fares Othin's son to fight with the wolf." Sig father ("Father 
of Victory") : Othin. His son, Vithar, is the silent god, famed 
chiefly for his great shield, and his strength, which is little less 
than Thor's. He survives the destruction. The gianfs son: Fenrir. 

55. This and the following stanza are clearly in bad shape. 
In Regius only lines i and 4 are found, combined with stanza 56 
as a single stanza. Line i does not appear in the Hauksbok 
version, the stanza there beginning with line 2. Snorri, in quot- 
ing these two stanzas, omits 55, 2-4, and 56, 3, making a single 
stanza out of 55, i, and 56, 4, 2, 1, in that order. Moreover, the 
Hauksbok manuscript at this point is practically illegible. The 
lacuna (line 3) is, of course, purely conjectural, and all sorts of 
arrangements of the lines have been attempted by editors. 
Hlothyn: another name for Jorth ("Earth"), Thor's mother; 
his father was Othin. The snake: Mithgarthsorm; cf. stanza 5c 
and note. Othin's son: Thor. The fourth line in Regius reads 
"against the wolf," but if this line refers to Thor at all, and 
not to Vithar, the Hauksbok reading, "serpent," is correct. 

56. The ivarder of earth: Thor. The son of Fjorgyn: again 


Poetic Edda 

57. The sun turns black, earth sinks in the sea, 
The hot stars down from heaven are whirled ; 
Fierce grows the steam and the life-feeding flame, 
Till fire leaps high about heaven itself. 

58. Now Garm howls loud before Gnipahellir, 
The fetters will burst, and the wolf run free ; 
Much do I know, and more can see 

Of the fate of the gods, the mighty in fight. 

59. Now do I see the earth anew 

Rise all green from the waves again; 
The cataracts fall, and the eagle flies. 
And fish he catches beneath the cliffs. 

60. The gods in Ithavoll meet together. 

Of the terrible girdler of earth they talk, 

Thor, who, after slaying the serpent, is overcome by his ven- 
omous breath, and dies. Fjorgyn appears in both a masculine and 
a feminine form. In the masculine it is a name for Othin ; in 
the feminine, as here and in Harbarthsljoth, 56, it apparently 
refers to Jorth. 

57. With this stanza ends the account of the destruction. 

58. Again the refrain-stanza (cf. stanza 44 and note), abbre- 
viated in both manuscripts, as in the case of stanza 49. It is 
probably misplaced here. 

59. Here begins the description of the new world which is to 
rise out of the wreck of the old one. It is on this passage that 
a few critics have sought to base their argument that the poem 
is later than the introduction of Christianity [circa 1000), but 
this theory has never seemed convincing (cf. introductory note). 

60. The third line of this stanza is not found in Regius. 
Ithavoll: cf. stanza 7 and note. The girdler of earth: Mith- 



And the mighty past they call to mind, 
And the ancient runes of the Ruler of Gods. 

6i. In wondrous beauty once again 

Shall the golden tables stand mid the grass, 
Which the gods had owned in the days of old, 

62. Then fields unsowed bear ripened fruit. 
All ills grow better, and Baldr comes back; 
Baldr and Hoth dwell in Hropt's battle-hall, 
And the mighty gods: would you know yet more? 

63. Then Honir wins the prophetic wand, 

And the sons of the brothers of Tveggi abide 
In Vindheim now: would you know yet more? 

garthsorm, who, lying in the sea, surrounded the land. The Ruhr 
of Gods: Othin. The runes were both magic signs, generally 
carved on wood, and sung or spoken charms. 

61. The Hauksbok version of the first two lines runs: 

"The gods shall find there, wondrous fair, 

The golden tables amid the grass." 

No lacuna (line 4) is indicated in the manuscripts. Golden tables: 
cf. stanza 8 and note. 

62. Baldr: cf. stanza 32 and note. Baldr and his brother, 
Hoth, who unwittingly slew him at Loki's instigation, return 
together, their union being a symbol of the new age of peace. 
Hropt: another name for Othin. His "battle-hall" is Valhall. 

63. No lacuna (line 2) indicated In the manuscripts. Honir: 
cf. stanza 18 and note. In this new age he has the gift of fore- 
telling the future. Tveggi ("The Twofold") : another name for 


Poetic Edda 

64. More fair than the sun, a hall I see, 
Roofed with gold, on Gimle it stands; 
There shall the righteous rulers dwell, 
And happiness ever there shall they have. 

65. There comes on high, all power to hold, 
A mighty lord, all lands he rules. 

66. From below the dragon dark comes forth, 
Nithho^ flying from NithafjoU; 
The bodies of men on his wings he bears, 
The serpent bright : but now must I sink. 

Othin. His brothers are Vili and Ve (cf. Lohasenna, z6, and 
note). Little is known of them, and nothing, beyond this refer- 
ence, of their sons. Vindheim ("Honae of the Wind") : heaven. 

64. This stanza is quoted by Snorri. Gimle: Snorri makes 
this the name of the hall itself, while here it appears to refer to 
a mountain on which the hall stands. It is the home of the happy, 
as opposed to another hall, not here mentioned, for the dead. 
Snorri's description of this second hall is based on Voluspo, 38, 
which he quotes, and perhaps that stanza properly belongs 
after 64. 

65. This stanza is not found in Regius, and is probably 
spurious. No lacuna is indicated in the Hauksbok version, but 
late paper manuscripts add two lines, running: 

"Rule he orders, and rights he fixes, 

Laws he ordains that ever shall live." 

The name of this new ruler is nowhere given, and of course the 
suggestion of Christianity is unavoidable. It is not certain, how- 
ever, that even this stanza refers to Christianity, and if it does, 
it may have been interpolated long after the rest of the poem 
was composed. 

66. This stanza, which fits so badly with the preceding ones, 



may well have been interpolated. It has been suggested that the 
dragon, making a last attempt to rise, is destroyed, this event 
marking the end of evil in the world. But in both manuscripts 
the final half-line does not refer to the dragon, but, as the gender 
shows, to the Volva herself, who sinks into the earth; a sort of 
conclusion to the entire prophecy. Presumably the stanza (bar- 
ring the last half-line, which was probably intended as the con- 
clusion of the poem) belongs somewhere in the description of the 
great struggle. Nithhogg: the dragon at the roots of Yggdrasil; 
cf. stanza 39 and note. Nithafjoll ("the Dark Crags") ; nowhere 
else mentioned. Must I: the manuscripts have "must she." 



The Ballad of the High One 

Introductory Note 

This poem follows the Voluspo in the Codex Regius, but is 
preserved in no other manuscript. The first stanza is quoted by 
Snorri, and two lines of stanza 84 appear in one of the sagas. 

In its present shape it involves the critic of the text in more 
puzzles than any other of the Eddie poems. Without going in 
detail into the various theories, what happened seems to have 
been somewhat as follows. There existed from very early times 
a collection of proverbs and wise counsels, which were attributed 
to Othin just as the Biblical proverbs were to Solomon. This 
collection, which presumably was always elastic in extent, was 
known as "The High One's Words," and forms the basis of the 
present poem. To it, however, were added other poems and 
fragments dealing with wisdom which seemed by their nature 
to imply that the speaker was Othin. Thus a catalogue of runes, 
or charms, was tacked on, and also a set of proverbs, differing 
essentially in form from those comprising the main collection. 
Here and there bits of verse more nearly narrative crept in; and 
of course the loose structure of the poem made it easy for any 
reciter to insert new stanzas almost at will. This curious mis- 
cellany is what we now have as the Hovamol. 

Five separate elements are pretty clearly recognizable: (1) 
the Hovamol proper (stanzas 1-80), a collection of proverbs and 
counsels for the conduct of life; (2) the Loddfafnismol (stanzas 
111-138), a collection somewhat similar to the first, but specific- 
ally addressed to a certain Loddfafnir; (3) the Ljothatal 
(stanzas 147-165), a collection of charms; (4) the love-story of 
Othin and Billing's daughter (stanzas 96-102), with an intro- 
ductory dissertation on the faithlessness of women in general 
(stanzas 81-95), which probably crept into the poem first, and 
then pulled the story, as an apt illustration, after it; (5) the 
story of how Othin got the mead of poetry — the draught which 
gave him the gift of tongues — from the maiden Gunnloth 
(stanzas 103-110). There is also a brief passage (stanzas 139- 
146) telling how Othin won the runes, this passage being a 
natural introduction to the Ljothatal, and doubtless brought 
into the poem for that reason. 



It is idle to discuss the authorship or date of such a series of 
accretions as this. Parts of it are doubtless among the oldest 
relics of ancient Germanic poetry; pa^ts of it may have origi- 
nated at a relatively late period. Probably, however, most of its 
component elements go pretty far back, although we have no way 
of telling how or when they first became associated. 

It seems all but meaningless to talk about "interpolations" in 
a poem which has developed almost solely through the process 
of piecing together originally unrelated odds and ends. The 
notes, therefore, make only such suggestions as are needed to 
keep the main divisions of the poem distinct. 

Few gnomic collections in the world's literary history present 
sounder wisdom more tersely expressed than the Hovamol. Like 
the Book of Proverbs it occasionally rises to lofty heights of 
poetry. If it presents the worldly wisdom of a violent race, it 
also shows noble ideals of loyalty, truth, and unfaltering courage. 

1. Within the gates ere a man shall go, 

(Full warily let him watch,) 
Full long let him look about him ; 
For little he knows where a foe may lurk, 
And sit in the seats within. 

2. Hail to the giver ! a guest has come ; 

Where shall the stranger sit? 
Swift shall he be who with swords shall try 
The proof of his might to make. 

1. This stanza is quoted by Snorri, the second line being 
omitted in most of the Prose Edda manuscripts. 

2. Probably the first and second lines had originally nothing 
to do with the third and fourth, the last two not referring to 
host or guest, but to the general danger of backing one's views 
with the sword, 


Poetic Edda 

3. Fire he needs who with frozen knees 

Has come from the cold without; 
Food and clothes must the farer have, 
The man from the mountains come. 

4. Water and towels and welcoming speech 

Should he find who comes to the feast; 
If renown he would get, and again be greeted, 
Wisely and well must he act. 

5. Wits must he have who wanders wide. 

But all is easy at home; 
At the witless man the wise shall wink 
When among such men he sits. 

6. A man shall not boast of his keenness of mindj 

But keep it close in his breast; 
To the silent and wise does ill come seldom 

When he goes as guest to a house; 
(For a faster friend one never finds 

Than wisdom tried and true.) 

7. The knowing guest who goes to the feast, 

In silent attention sits; 
With his ears he hears, with his eyes he watches, 
Thus wary are wise men all. 

6. Lines 5 and 6 appear to have been added to the stanza. 


8. Happy the one who wins for himself 

Favor and praises fair; 
Less safe by far is the wisdom found 
That is hid in another's heart. 

9. Happy the man who has while he lives 

Wisdom and praise as well, 
For evil counsel a man full oft 
Has from another's heart. 

10. A better burden may no man bear 

For wanderings wide than wisdom; 
It is better than wealth on unknown ways, 
And in grief a refuge it gives. 

11. A better burden may no man bear 

For wanderings wide than wisdom ; 
Worse food for the journey he brings not afield 
Than an over-drinking of ale. 

12. Less good there lies than most believe 

In ale for mortal men; 
For the more he drinks the less does man 
Of his mind the mastery hold. 

12. Some editors have combined this stanza in various ways 
with the last two lines of stanza 11, as in the manuscript the 
first two lines of the latter are abbreviated, and, if they belong 
there at all, are presumably identical with the first two lines of 
stanza 10. 


Poetic Edda 

13. Over beer the bird of forgetfulness broods, 

And steals the minds of men; 
With the heron's feathers fettered I lay 
And in Gunnloth's house was held. 

14. Drunk I was, I was dead-drunk, 

When with Fjalar wise I was; 
'Tis the best of drinking if back one brings 
His wisdom with him home. 

15. The son of a king shall be silent and wise, 

And bold in battle as well ; 
Bravely and gladly a man shall go, 
Till the day of his death is come. 

16. The sluggard believes he shall live forever. 

If the fight he faces not; 
But age shall not grant him the gift of peace, 
Though spears may spare his life. 

17. The fool is agape when he comes to the feast, 

He stammers or else is still; 
But soon if he gets a drink is it seen 
What the mind of the man is like. 

13. The heron: the bird of forgetfulness, referred to in line i. 
Gunnloth: the daughter of the giant Suttung, from whom Othin 
won the mead of poetry. For this episode see stanzas 104-110. 

14. Fjalar: apparently another name for Suttung. This 
stanza, and probably 13, seem to have been inserted as illus- 



1 8. He alone is aware who has wandered wide, 

And far abroad has fared, 
How great a mind is guided by him 
That wealth of wisdom has. 

19. Shun not the mead, but drink in measure; 

Speak to the point or be still; 
For rudeness none shall rightly blame thee 
If soon thy bed thou seekest. 

20. The greedy man, if his mind be vague. 

Will eat till sick he is ; 
The vulgar man, when among the wise. 
To scorn by his belly is brought. 

2 1 . The herds know well when home they shall fare. 

And then from the grass they go; 
But the foolish man his belly's measure 
Shall never know aright. 

22. A paltry man and poor of mind 

At all things ever mocks; 
For never he knows, what he ought to know, 
That he is not free from faults. 

23. The witless man is awake all night. 

Thinking of many things; 
Care-worn he is when the morning comes, 
. And his woe is just as it was. 

24. The foolish man for friends all those 

Who laugh at him will hold; 


Poetic Edda 

When among the wise he marks it not 
Though hatred of him they speak. 

25. The foolish man for friends all those 

Who laugh at him will hold ; 
But the truth when he comes to the council he 
That few in his favor will speak. 

26. An ignorant man thinks that all he knows, 

When he sits by himself in a corner; 
But never what answer to make he knows, 
When others with questions come. 

27. A witless man, when he meets with men. 

Had best in silence abide ; 
For no one shall find that nothing he knows, 

If his mouth is not open too much. 
(But a man knows not, if nothing he knows, 

When his mouth has been open too much. ) 

28. Wise shall he seem who well can question, 

And also answer well ; 
Nought is concealed that men may say 
Among the sons of men. 

29. Often he speaks who never is still 

With words that win no faith ; 

25. The first two lines are abbreviated in the manuscript, but 
are doubtless identical with the first two lines of stanza 24. 

27. The last two lines were probably added as a commentary 
on lines 3 and 4. 



The babbling tongue, if a bridle it find not, 
Oft for itself sings ill. 

30. In mockery no one a man shall hold. 

Although he fare to the feast ; 
Wise seems one oft, if nought he is asked. 
And safely he sits dry-skinned. 

3 1 . Wise a guest holds it to take to his heels, 

When mock of another he makes; 
But little he knows who laughs at the feast. 
Though he mocks in the midst of his foes. 

32. Friendly of mind are many men, 

Till feasting they mock at their friends ; 
To mankind a bane must it ever be 
When guests together strive. 

33. Oft should one make an early meal, 

Nor fasting come to the feast; 
Else he sits and chews as if he would choke, 
And little is able to ask. 

34. Crooked and far is the road to a foe. 

Though his house on the highway be ; 
But wide and straight is the way to a friend, 
Though far away he fare. 

35. Forth shall one go, nor stay as a guest 

In a single spot forever; 

Poetic Edda 

Love becomes loathing if long one sits 
By the hearth in another's home. 

36. Better a house, though a hut it be, 

A man is master at home ; 
A pair of goats and a patched-up roof 
Are better far than begging. 

37. Better a house, though a hut it be, 

A man is master at home ; 
His heart is bleeding who needs must beg 
When food he fain would have. 

38. Away from his arms in the open field 

A man should fare not a foot ; 
For never he knows when the need for a spear 
Shall arise on the distant road. 

39. If wealth a man has won for himself. 

Let him never suffer in need ; 
Oft he saves for a foe what he plans for a friend. 
For much goes worse than we wish. 

40. None so free with gifts or food have I found 

That gladly he took not a gift. 

36. The manuscript has "little" in place of "a hut" in line i, 
but this involves an error in the initial-rhymes, and the emenda- 
tion has been generally accepted. 

37. Lines i and 2 are abbreviated in the manuscript, but are 
doubtless identical with the first two lines of stanza 36. 

39. In the manuscript this stanza follows stanza 40. 


Nor one who so widely scattered his wealth 
That of recompense hatred he had. 

41. Friends shall gladden each other with arms and 

As each for himself can see; 
Gift-givers' friendships are longest found, 
If fair their fates may be. 

42. To his friend a man a friend shall prove, 

And gifts with gifts requite ; 
But men shall mocking with mockery answer. 
And fraud with falsehood meet. 

43. To his friend a man a friend shall prove, 

To him and the friend of his friend; 
But never a man shall friendship make 
With one of his foeman's friends. 

44. If a friend thou hast whom thou fully wilt trust, 

And good from him wouldst get, 
Thy thoughts with his mingle, and gifts shalt 
thou make, 
And fare to find him oft. 

40. The key-word in line 3 is missing in the manuscript, but 
editors have agreed in inserting a word meaning "generous." 

41. In line 3 the manuscript adds "givers again" to "gift- 


Poetic Edda 

45. If another thou hast whom thou hardly wilt 

Yet good from him wouldst get, 
Thou shalt speak him fair, but falsely think, 
And fraud with falsehood requite. 

46. So is it with him whom thou hardly wilt trust. 

And whose mind thou mayst not know ; 
Laugh with him mayst thou, but speak not thy 
Like gifts to his shalt thou give. 

47. Young was I once, and wandered aloni. 

And nought of the road I knew ; 
Rich did I feel when a comrade I found. 
For man is man's delight. 

48. The lives of the brave and noble are best, 

Sorrows they seldom feed ; 
But the coward fear of all things feels, 
And not gladly the niggard gives. 

49. My garments once in a field I gave 

To a pair of carven poles; 
Heroes they seemed when clothes they had. 
But the naked man is nought. 

50. On the hillside drear the fir-tree dies, 

All bootless its needles and bark; 
It is like a man whom no one loves, — 
Why should his life be long? 


51. Hotter than fire between false friends 

Does friendship five days burn ; 
When the sixth day comes the fire cools, 
And ended is all the love. 

52. No great thing needs a man to give, 

Oft little will purchase praise; 
With half a loaf and a half-filled cup 
A friend full fast I made. 

53. A little sand has a little sea, 

And small are the minds of men ; 
Though all men are not equal in wisdom, 
Yet half-wise only are all. 

54. A measure of wisdom each man shall have, 

But never too much let him know; 
The fairest lives do those men live 
Whose wisdom wide has grown. 

55. A measure of wisdom each man shall have. 

But never too much let him know; 
For the wise man's heart is seldom happy, 
If wisdom too great he has won. 

56. A measure of wisdom each man shall have, 

But never too much let him know ; 

55-56. The first pairs of lines are abbreviated in the manu- 


Poetic Edda 

Let no man the fate before him see, 
For so is he freest from sorrow. 

57. A brand from a brand is kindled and burned, 

And fire from fire begotten; 
And man by his speech is known to men, 
And the stupid by their stillness. 

58. He must early go forth who fain the blood 

Or the goods of another would get ; 
The wolf that lies idle shall win little meat, 
Or the sleeping man success. 

59. He must early go forth whose workers are few, 

Himself his work to seek; 
Much remains undone for the morning-sleeper. 
For the swift is wealth half won. 

60. Of seasoned shingles and strips of bark 

For the thatch let one know his need. 
And how much of wood he must have for a 
Or in half a year he will use. 

61. Washed and fed to the council fare, 

But care not too much for thy clothes ; 
Let none be ashamed of his shoes and hose. 
Less still of the steed he rides, 
(Though poor be the horse he has.) 

61. The fifth line is probably a spurious addition. 


62. When the eagle comes to the ancient sea, 

He snaps and hangs his head ; 
So is a man in the midst of a throng, 
Who few to speak for him finds. 

63. To question and answer must all be ready 

Who wish to be known as wise; 
Tell one thy thoughts, but beware of two,- 
AU know what is known to three. 

64. The man who is prudent a measured use 

Of the might he has will make ; 
He finds when among the brave he fares 
That the boldest he may not be. 


Oft for the words that to others one speaks 
He will get but an evil gift. 

66. Too early to many a meeting I came. 
And some too late have I sought ; 
The beer was all drunk, or not yet brewed ; 
Little the loathed man finds. 

62. This stanza follows stanza 63 In the manuscript, but there 
are marks therein indicating the transposition. 

65. The manuscript indicates no lacuna (lines i and 2). Many 
editors have filled out the stanza with two lines from late paper 
manuscripts, the passage running: 

"A man must be watchful and wary as well. 
And fearful of trusting a friend." 


Poetic Edda 

67. To their homes men would bid me hither and 

If at meal-time I needed no meat, 
Or would hang two hams in my true friend's 

Where only one I had eaten. 

68. Fire for men is the fairest gift, 

And power to see the sun; 
Health as well, if a man may have it. 
And a life not stained with sin. 

69. All wretched is no man, though never so sick; 

Some from their sons have joy, 
Some win it from kinsmen, and some from their 
And some from worthy works. 

70. It is better to live than to lie a corpse, 

The live man catches the cow; 
I saw flames rise for the rich man's pyre. 
And before his door he lay dead. 

7 1 . The lame rides a horse, the handless is herdsman, 

The deaf in battle is bold ; 
The blind man is better than one that is burned, 
No good can come of a corpse. 

70. The manuscript has "and a worthy life" in place of "than 
to lie a corpse" in line i, but Rask suggested the emendation as 
early as 1818, and most editors have followed him. 



72. A son is better, though late he be bom, 

And his father to death have fared; 
Memory-stones seldom stand by the road 
Save when kinsman honors his kin. 

73. Two make a battle, the tongue slays the head ; 
In each furry coat a fist I look for. 

74. He welcomes the night whose fare is enough, 

(Short are the yards of a ship,) 
Uneasy are autumn nights; 
Full oft does the weather change in a week. 
And more in a month's time. 

75. A man knows not, if nothing he knows. 

That gold oft apes begets ; 
One man is wealthy and one is poor. 
Yet scorn for him none should know. 

76. Among Fitjung's sons saw I well-stocked 

folds, — 
Now bear they the beggar's staff; 

73-74. These seven lines are obviously a jumble. The two 
lines of stanza 73 not only appear out of place, but the verse- 
form is unlike that of the surrounding stanzas. In 74, the second 
line is clearly interpolated, and line 1 has little enough connec- 
tion with lines 3, 4 and 5. It looks as though some compiler (or 
copyist) had inserted here various odds and ends for which he 
could find no better place. 

75. The word "gold" in line 2 is more or less conjectural, 
the manuscript being obscure. The reading in line 4 is also 


Poetic Edda 

Wealth is as swift as a winking eye, 
Of friends the falsest it is. 

77. Cattle die, and kinsmen die, 

And so one dies one's self ; 
But a noble name will never die, 
If good renown one gets. 

78. Cattle die, and kinsmen die, 

And so one dies one's self; 
One thing I know that never dies. 
The fame of a dead man's deeds. 

79. Certain is that which is sought from runes. 

That the gods so great have made, 
And the Master-Poet painted ; 

of the race of gods : 

Silence is safest and best. 

80. An unwise man, if a maiden's love 
Or wealth he chances to win. 

76. In the manuscript this stanza follows 78, the order being: 
77> 78, 76, 80, 79, 81. Fitjung ("the Nourisher") : Earth. 

79. This stanza is certainly in bad shape, and probably out 
of place here. Its reference to runes as magic signs suggests that 
it properly belongs in some list of charms like the Ljothatal 
(stanzas 147-165). The stanza-form is so irregular as to show 
either that something has been lost or that there have been inter- 
polations. The manuscript indicates no lacuna ; Gering fills out 
the assumed gap as follows: 

"Certain is that which is sought from runes, 

The runes — ," etc. 



His pride will wax, but his wisdom never, 

Straight forward he fares in conceit. 

* * * 

8i. Give praise to the day at evening, to a woman 
on her pyre. 
To a weapon which is tried, to a maid at wed- 
To ice when it is crossed, to ale that is drunk. 

82. When the gale blows hew wood, in fair wmds 

seek the water; 
Sport with maidens at dusk, for day's eyes are 

many ; 
From the ship seek swiftness, from the shield 

Cuts from the sword, from the maiden kisses. 

83. By the fire drink ale, over ice go on skates; 
Buy a steed that is lean, and a sword when 


81. With this stanza the verse-form, as indicated in the trans- 
lation, abruptly changes to Malahattr. What has happened seems 
to have been something like this. Stanza 80 introduces the idea 
of man's love for woman. Consequently some reciter or com- 
piler (or possibly even a copyist) took occasion to insert at this 
point certain stanzas concerning the ways of women. Thus 
stanza 80 would account for the introduction of stanzas 81 and 
82, which, in turn, apparently drew stanza 83 in with them. 
Stanza 84 suggests the fickleness of women, and is immediately 
followed — again with a change of verse-form — by a list of things 
equally untrustworthy (stanzas 85-90). Then, after a few more 
stanzas on love in the regular measure of the Hovamol (stanzas 
91-95), is introduced, by way of illustration, Othin's story of his 


Poetic Edda 

The horse at home fatten, the hound in thy 

* * * 

84. A man shall trust not the oath of a maid, 

Nor the word a woman speaks; 
For their hearts on a whirling wheel were fash- 
And fickle their breasts were formed. 

* * * 

85. In a breaking bow or a burning flame, 
A ravening wolf or a croaking raven. 

In a grunting boar, a tree with roots broken, 
In billowy seas or a bubbling kettle, 

86. In a flying arrow or falling waters, 

In ice new formed or the serpent's folds, 
In a bride's bed-speech or a broken sword, 
In the sport of bears or in sons of kings, 

87. In a calf that is sick or a stubborn thrall, 
A flattering witch or a foe new slain. 

adventure with Billing's daughter (stanzas 96-102). Some such 
process of growth, whatever its specific stages may have been, 
must be assumed to account for the curious chaos of the whole 
passage from stanza 81 to stanza 102. 

84. Lines 3 and 4 are quoted in the Fostbrathrasaga, 

85. Stanzas 85-88 and 90 are in Fornyrthislag, and clearly 
come from a different source from the rest of the Hovamol. 

87. The stanza is doubtless incomplete. Some editors add from 
a late paper manuscript two lines running: 

"In a light, clear sky or a laughing throng, 

In the howl of a dog or a harlot's grief." 



88. In a brother's slayer, if thou meet him abroad, 
In a half-burned house, in a horse full swift — 
One leg is hurt and the horse is useless — 
None had ever such faith as to trust in them all. 

89. Hope not too surely for early harvest, 

Nor trust too soon in thy son ; 
The field needs good weather, the son needs 
And oft is either denied. 
* * * 

90. The love of women fickle of will 

Is like starting o'er ice with a steed unshod, 
A two-year-old restive and little tamed, 
Or steering a rudderless ship in a storm, 
Or, lame, hunting reindeer on slippery rocks. 
» * * 

91. Clear now will I speak, for I know them both. 

Men false to women are found ; 
When fairest we speak, then falsest we think. 
Against wisdom we work with deceit. 

92. Soft words shall he speak and wealth shall he 

Who longs for a maiden's love. 
And the beauty praise of the maiden bright; 
He wins whose wooing is best. 

88. This stanza follows stanza 89 in the manuscript. Many 
editors have changed the order, for while stanza 89 is pretty 
clearly an interpolation wherever it stands, it seriously inter- 
feres with the sense if it breaks in between 87 and 88. 


Poetic Edda 

93. Fault for loving let no man find 

Ever with any other; 
Oft the wise are fettered, where fools go free, 
By beauty that breeds desire. 

94. Fault with another let no man find 

For what touches many a man ; 
Wise men oft into witless fools 
Are made by mighty love. 

95. The head alone knows what dwells near the 

A man knows his mind alone; 
No sickness is worse to one who is wise 
Than to lack the longed-for joy. 

96. This found I myself, when I sat in the reeds, 

And long my love awaited ; 
As my life the maiden wise I loved, 
Yet her I never had. 

97. Billing's daughter I found on her bed, 

In slumber bright as the sun ; 
Empty appeared an earl's estate 
Without that form so fair. 

96. Here begins the passage (stanzas 96-102) illustrating the 
falseness of woman by the story of Othin's unsuccessful love- 
affair with Billing's daughter. Of this person we know nothing 
beyond what is here told, but the story needs little comment. 



98. "Othin, again at evening come, 

If a woman thou wouldst win ; 
Evil it were if others than we 
Should know of such a sin." 

99. Away I hastened, hoping for joy, 

And careless of counsel wise; 
Well I believed that soon I should win 
Measureless joy with the maid. 

100. So came I next when night it was, 
The warriors all were awake; 
With burning lights and waving brands 
I learned my luckless way. 

lOi. At morning then, when once more I came, 
And all were sleeping still, 
A dog I found in the fair one's place. 
Bound there upon her bed. 

102. Many fair maids, if a man but tries them. 
False to a lover are found ; 
That did I learn when I longed to gain 
With wiles the maiden wise; 

102. Rask adds at the beginning of this stanza two lines from 
a late paper manuscript, running: 

"Few are so good that false they are never 

To cheat the mind of a man." 
He makes these two lines plus lines 1 and 2 a full stanza, and 
lines 3, 4, 5, and 6 a second stanza. 


Poetic Edda 

Foul scorn was my meed from the crafty maid, 
And nought from the woman I won. 

» « « 

103. Though glad at home, and merry with guests, 

A man shall be wary and wise; 
The sage and shrewd, wide wisdom seeking, 

Must see that his speech be fair; 
A fool is he named who nought can say. 

For such is the way of the witless. 

104. I found the old giant, now back have I fared. 

Small gain from silence I got; 
Full many a word, my will to get, 
I spoke in Suttung's hall. 

105. The mouth of Rati made room for my passage, 

And space in the stone he gnawed; 

103. With this stanza the subject changes abruptly, and ap- 
parently the virtues of fair speech, mentioned in the last three 
lines, account for the introduction, from what source cannot be 
known, of the story of Othin and the mead of song (stanzas 

104. The giant Suttung ("the old giant") possessed the magic 
mead, a draught of which conferred the gift of poetry. Othin, 
desiring to obtain it, changed himself into a snake, bored his way 
through a mountain into Suttung's home, made love to t^» giant's 
daughter, Gunnloth, and by her connivance drank jU^^^ '' the 
mead. Then he flew away in the form of an eagle, leavmg Gunn- 
loth to her fate. While with Suttung he assumed the name of 
Bolverk ("the Evil-Doer"). 

105. Rati ("the Traveller") : the gimlet with which Othin 
bored through the mountain to reach Suttung's home. 



Above and below the giants' paths lay, 
So rashly I risked my head. 

1 06. Gunnloth gave on a golden stool 

A drink of the marvelous mead ; 
A harsh reward did I let her have 
For her heroic heart, 
And her spirit troubled sore. 

107. The well-earned beauty well I enjoyed, 

Little the wise man lacks; 
So Othrorir now has up been brought 
To the midst of the men of earth. 

108. Hardly, methinks, would I home have come, 

And left the giants' land, 
Had not Gunnloth helped me, the maiden good, 
Whose arms about me had been. 

109. The day that followed, the frost-giants came. 

Some word of Hor to win, 
(And into the hall of Hor;) 

106. Probably either the fourth or the fifth line is a spurious 

107. Othrorir: here the name of the magic mead itself, 
wherp'^'^Mn stanza 141 it is the name of the vessel containing it. 
Othlil -iJ no intention of bestowing any of the precious mead 
upon men, but as he was flying over the earth, hotly pursued by 
Suttung, he spilled some of it out of his mouth, and in thi». 
way mankind also won the gift of poetry. 

109. Hor: Othin ("the High One")- The frost-giants, Sut- 
tung's kinsmen, appear not to have suspected Othin of being 


Poetic Edda 

Of Bolverk they asked, were he back midst the 
Or had Suttung slain him there? 

no. On his ring swore Othin the oath, methinks; 
Who now his troth shall trust? 
Suttung's betrayal he sought with drink, 
And Gunnloth to grief he left. 
* * * 

III. It is time to chant from the chanter's stool ; 
By the wells of Urth I was, 
I saw and was silent, I saw and thought, 

And heard the speech of Hon 
(Of runes heard I words, nor were counsel? 
At the hall of Hor, 
In the hall of Hor; 
Such was the speech I heard.) 

identical with Bolverk, possibly because the oath referred to in 
stanza no was an oath made by Othin to Suttung that there was 
no such person as Bolverk among the gods. The giants, of course, 
fail to get from Othin the information they seek concerning Bol- 
verk, but Othin is keenly conscious of having violated the most 
sacred of oaths, that sworn on his ring. 

III. With this stanza begins the Loddfafnismol (stanzas iii- 
138). Loddfafnir is apparently a wandering singer, who, from 
his "chanter's stool," recites the verses which he claims to have 
received from Othin. Wells of Urth: cf. Voluspo, 19 and note. 
Urth ("the Past") is one of the three Norns. This stanza is 
apparently in corrupt form, and editors have tried many experi- 
ments with it, both in rejecting lines as spurious and in rear- 
ranging the words and punctuation. It looks rather as though the 
first four lines formed a complete stanza, and the last four had 



112. I rede thee, Loddfafnir! and hear thou my 

rede, — 
Profit thou hast if thou hearest, 
Great thy gain if thou learnest: 
Rise not at night, save if news thou seekest, 
Or fain to the outhouse wouldst fare. 

113. I rede thee, Loddfafnir! and hear thou my 

rede, — 
Profit thou hast if thou hearest, 
Great thy gain if thou learnest: 
Beware of sleep on a witch's bosom, 
Nor let her limbs ensnare thee. 

114. Such is her might that thou hast no mind 

For the council or meeting of men; 
Meat thou hatest, joy thou hast not, 
And sadly to slumber thou farest. 

115. I rede thee, Loddfafnir! and hear thou my 

rede, — 
Profit thou hast if thou hearest, 
Great thy gain if thou learnest: 

crept in later. The phrase translated "the speech of Hor" is 
"Hova mol," later used as the title for the entire poem. 

112. Lines 1-3 are the formula, repeated (abbreviated in the 
manuscript) in most of the stanzas, with which Othin prefaces 
nis counsels to Loddfafnir, and throughout this section, except r^ 
stanzas iii and 138, Loddfafnir represents himself as s[\ p|y 
quoting Othin's words. The material is closely analogc '^ to that 
contained in the first eighty stanzas of the poem. InAsome cases 
(e. g., stanzas 117, 119, 121, 126 and 130) the fotmula precedes 
a full four-line stanza instead of two (or three) lines. 


Poetic Edda 

Seek never to win the wife of another, 
Or long for her secret love. 

1 1 6. I rede thee, Loddfafnirl and hear thou my 

rede, — 
Profit thou hast if thou hearest, 
Great thy gain if thou learnest: 
If o'er mountains or gulfs thou fain wouldst go, 
Look well to thy food for the way. 

117. I rede thee, Loddfafnir! and hear thou my 

rede, — 

Profit thou hast if thou hearest, 

Great thy gain if thou learnest: 
An evil man thou must not let 

Bring aught of ill to thee ; 
For an evil man will never make 

Reward for a worthy thought. 

118. I saw a man who was wounded sore 

By an evil woman's word; 
A lying tongue his death-blow launched, 
And no word of truth there was. 

119. I rede thee, Loddfafnir! and hear thou my 

rede, — 
Profit thou hast if thou hearest. 
Great thy gain if thou learnest: 
If a friend thou hast whom thou fully wilt trust, 

'^hen fare to find him oft; 
For brambles grow and waving grass 
On the rarely trodden road. 


120. I rede thee, Loddfafnir! and hear thou my 

rede, — 
Profit thou hast if thou hearest, 
Great thy gain if thou learnest: 
A good man find to hold in friendship, 
And give heed to his healing charms. 

121. I rede thee, Loddfafnir! and hear thou my 

rede, — 

Profit thou hast if thou hearest, 

Great thy gain if thou learnest: 
Be never the first to break vi^ith thy friend 

The bond that holds you both; 
Care eats the heart if thou canst not speak 

To another all thy thought. 

122. I rede thee, Loddfafnir! and hear thou my 

rede, — 
Profit thou hast if thou hearest, 
Great thy gain if thou learnest: 
Exchange of words v^^ith a witless ape 
Thou must not ever make. 

123. For never thou mayst from an evil man 

A good requital get; 
But a good man oft the greatest love 
Through words of praise will win thee. 

124. Mingled Is love when a man can speak 

To another all his thought; 

Poetic Edda 

Nought is so bad as false to be, 
No friend speaks only fair. 

125. I rede thee, Loddfafnir! and hear thou my 

rede, — 
Profit thou hast if thou hearest, 
Great thy gain if thou learnest: 
With a worse man speak not three words in 
111 fares the better oft 
When the worse man wields a sword. 

126. I rede thee, Loddfafnir! and hear thou my 

rede, — 

Profit thou hast if thou hearest, 

Great thy gain if thou learnest : 
A shoemaker be, or a maker of shafts, 

For only thy single self ; 
If the shoe is ill made, or the shaft prove false, 

Then evil of thee men think. 

127. I rede thee, Loddfafnir! and hear thou my 

rede, — 
Profit thou hast if thou hearest, 
Great thy gain if thou learnest: 
If evil thou knowest, as evil proclaim it. 
And make no friendship with foes. 

128. I rede thee, Loddfafnir! and hear thou my 

rede, — 
Profit thou hast if thou hearest, 


Great thy gain if thou learnest: 
In evil never joy shalt thou know, 
But glad the good shall make thee. 

129. I rede thee, Loddfafnir! and hear thou my 

rede, — 

Profit thou hast if thou hearest, 

Great thy gain if thou learnest: 
Look not up when the battle is on, — 
(Like madmen the sons of men become, — ) 

Lest men bewitch thy wits. 

130. I rede thee, Loddfafnir! and hear thou my 

rede, — 

Profit thou hast if thou hearest, 

Great thy gain if thou learnest: 
If thou fain wouldst win a woman's love, 

And gladness get from her, 
Fair be thy promise and well fulfilled ; 

None loathes what good he gets. 

131. I rede thee, Loddfafnir! and hear thou my 

rede, — 

Profit thou hast if thou hearest. 

Great thy gain if thou learnest: 
I bid thee be wary, but be not fearful ; 
(Beware most with ale or another's wife. 
And third beware lest a thief outwit thee.) 

129. Line 5 is apparently interpolated. 
131. Lines 5-6 probably were inserted from a different poem. 

Poetic Edda 

132. I rede thee, Loddfafnir! and hear thou my 

rede, — 
Profit thou hast if thou hearest. 
Great thy gain if thou leamest: 
Scorn or mocking ne'er shalt thou make 
Of a guest or a journey-goer. 

133. Oft scarcely he knows who sits in the house 

What kind is the man who comes; 
None so good is found that faults he has not. 
Nor so wicked that nought he is worth. 

134. I rede thee, Loddfafnir! and hear thou my 

rede, — 

Profit thou hast if thou hearest, 

Great thy gain if thou learnest: 
Scorn not ever the gray-haired singer, 

Oft do the old speak good ; 
(Oft from shrivelled skin come skillful counsels, 

Though it hang with the hides. 

And flap with the pelts. 

And is blown with the bellies.) 

133. Many editors reject the last two lines of this stanza as 
spurious, putting the first two lines at the end of the preceding 
stanza. Others, attaching lines 3 and 4 to stanza 132, insert as 
the first two lines of stanza 133 two lines from a late paper 
manuscript, running: 

"Evil and good do men's sons ever 

"Mingled bear in their breasts." 

134. Presumably the last four lines have been added to this 
stanza, for the parallelism in the last three makes it probable 
that they belong together. The wrinkled skin of the old man it 



135. I rede thee, Loddfafnirl and hear thou my 

rede, — 
Profit thou hast if thou hearest, 
Great thy gain if thou learnest: 
Curse not thy guest, nor show him thy gate, 
Deal well with a man in want. 

136. Strong is the beam that raised must be 

To give an entrance to all; 
Give it a ring, or grim will be 
The wish it would work on thee. 

137. I rede thee, Loddfafnir! and hear thou my 

rede, — 

Profit thou hast if thou hearest, 

Great thy gain if thou learnest: 
When ale thou drinkest, seek might of earth, 
(For earth cures drink, and fire cures ills, 
The oak cures tightness, the ear cures magic. 
Rye cures rupture, the moon cures rage. 
Grass cures the scab, and runes the sword-cut;) 

The field absorbs the flood. 

compared with the dried skins and bellies of animals kept for 
various purposes hanging in an Icelandic house. 

136. This stanza suggests the dangers of too much hospitality. 
The beam (bolt) which is ever being raised to admit guests be- 
comes weak thereby. It needs a ring to help it in keeping the door 
closed, and without the ability at times to ward off guests a man 
becomes the victim of his own generosity. 

137. The list of "household remedies" in this stanza is doubt- 
less interpolated. Their nature needs no comment here. 


Poetic Edda 

138. Now are Hor's words spoken in the hall, 

Kind for the kindred of men, 
Cursed for the kindred of giants : 
Hail to the speaker, and to him who learns ! 
Profit be his who has them! 
Hail to them who hearken! 
* * * 

139. I ween that I hung on the windy tree, 

Hung there for nights full nine; 
With the spear I was wounded, and offered I 

To Othin, myself to myself, 
On the tree that none may ever know 

What root beneath it runs. 

138. In the manuscript this stanza comes at the end of the 
entire poem, following stanza 165. Most recent editors have fol- 
lowed Miillenhoff in shifting it to this position, as it appears to 
conclude the passage introduced by the somewhat similar stanza 

139. With this stanza begins the most confusing part of the 
Hovamol: the group of eight stanzas leading up to the Ljothatal, 
or list of charms. Certain paper manuscripts have before this 
stanza a title: "Othin's Tale of the Runes." Apparently stanzas 
139, 140 and 142 are fragments of an account of how Othin ob- 
tained the runes; 141 is erroneously inserted from some version 
of the magic mead story (cf. stanzas 104-110) ; and stanzas 143, 
144, 145, and 146 are from miscellaneous sources, all, however, 
dealing with the general subject of runes. With stanza 147 a 
clearly continuous passage begins once more. The ivindy tree: 
the ash Yggdrasil (literally "the Horse of Othin," so called be- 
cause of this story), on which Othin, in order to win the magic 
runes, hanged himself as an oflFering to himself, and wounded 
himself with his own spear. Lines 5 and 6 have presumably been 
borrowed from Svipdagsmol, 30. 



140. None made me happy with loaf or horn, 

And there below I looked; 
I took up the runes, shrieking I took them, 
And forthwith back I fell. 

141. Nine mighty songs I got from the son 

Of Bolthorn, Bestla's father; 
And a drink I got of the goodly mead 
Poured out from Othrorir. 

142. Then began I to thrive, and wisdom to get, 

I grew and well I was; 
Each word led me on to another word. 
Each deed to another deed. 

143. Runes shalt thou find, and fateful signs. 

That the king of singers colored. 
And the mighty gods have made; 

141, This stanza, interrupting as it does the account of Othin's 
winning the runes, appears to be an interpolation. The meaning 
of the stanza is most obscure. Bolthorn was Othin's grandfather, 
and Bestla his mother. We do not know the name of the uncle 
here mentioned, but it has been suggested that this son of Bol- 
thorn was Mimir (cf. Voluspo, 27 and note, and 47 and note). 
In any case, the nine magic songs which he learned from his 
uncle seem to have enabled him to win the magic mead (cf. 
stanzas 104-110). Concerning Othrorir, here used as the name of 
the vessel containing the mead, cf. stanza 107 and note. 

143. This and the following stanza belong together, and in 
many editions appear as a single stanza. They presumably come 
from some lost poem on the authorship of the runes. Lines 2 and 
3 follow line 4 in the manuscript; the transposition was sug- 
gested by Bugge. The king of singers: Othin. The magic signs 
(runes) were commonly carved in wood, then colored red, 


Poetic Edda 

Full strong the signs, full mighty the signs 
That the ruler of gods doth write. 

144. Othin for the gods, Dain for the elves. 

And Dvalin for the dwarfs, 
Alsvith for giants and all mankind, 
And some myself I wrote. 

145. Knowest how one shall write, knowest how one 

shall rede? 
Knowest how one shall tint, knowest how one 

makes trial? 
Knowest how one shall ask, knowest how one 

shall offer? 
Knowest how one shall send, knowest how one 

shall sacrifice? 

144. Dain and Dvalin: dwarfs; cf. Voluspo, 14, and note. 
Dain, however, may here be one of the elves rather than the 
dwarf of that name. The two names also appear together in 
Grimnismol, 33, where they are applied to two of the four harts 
that nibble at the topmost twigs of Yggdrasil. Alsvith ("the All- 
Wise") appears nowhere else as a giant's name. Myself: Othin. 
We have no further information concerning the list of those 
who wrote the runes for the various races, and these four lines 
seem like a confusion of names in the rather hazy mind of some 

145. This Malahattr stanza appears to be a regular religious 
formula, concerned less with the runes which one "writes" and 
"tints" (cf. stanza 79) than with the prayers which one "asks" 
and the sacrifices which one "offers" and "sends." Its origin is 
wholly uncertain, but it is clearly an interpolation here. In the 
manuscript the phrase "knowest?" is abbreviated after the first 



146. Better no prayer than too big an offering, 
By thy getting measure thy gift ; 
Better is none than too big a sacrifice, 

So Thund of old wrote ere man's race began, 
Where he rose on high when home he came. 

* * * 

147. The songs I know that king's wives know not, 

Nor men that are sons of men; 
The first is called help, and help it can bring 
In sorrow and pain and sickness. 

148. A second I know, that men shall need 

Who leechcraft long to use; 

146. This stanza as translated here follows the manuscript 
reading, except in assuming a gap between lines 3 and 5. In 
Vigfusson and Powell's Corpus Poeticum Boreale the first three 
lines have somehow been expanded into eight. The last two lines 
are almost certainly misplaced; Bugge suggests that they belong 
at the end of stanza 144. Thund: another name for Othin. When 
home he came: presumably after obtaining the runes as described 
in stanzas 139 and 140. 

147. With this stanza begins the Ljothatal, or list of charms. 
The magic songs themselves are not given, but in each case the 
peculiar application of the charm is explained. The passage, 
which is certainly approximately complete as far as it goes, runs 
to the end of the poem. In the manuscript and in most editions 
line 4 falls into two half-lines, running: 

"In sickness and pain and every sorrow." 


Poetic Edda 

149. A third I know, if great is my need 

Of fetters to hold my foe ; 
Blunt do I make mine enemy's blade, 
Nor bites his sword or sta£E. 

150. A fourth I know, if men shall fasten 

Bonds on my bended legs; 
So great is the charm that forth I may go, 
The fetters spring from my feet. 
Broken the bonds from my hands. 

151. A fifth I know, if I see from afar 

An arrow fly 'gainst the folk; 
It flies not so swift that I stop it not, 
If ever my eyes behold it. 

152. A sixth I know, if harm one seeks 

With a sapling's roots to send me ; 
The hero himself who wreaks his hate 
Shall taste the ill ere I. 

153. A seventh I know, if I see in flames 

The hall o'er my comrades' heads ; 
It burns not so wide that I will not quench it, 
I know that song to sing. 

148. Second, etc., appear in the manuscript as Roman numer- 
als. The manuscript indicates no gap after line 2. 

152. The sending of a root with runes written thereon was 
an excellent way of causing death. So died the Icelandic hero 
Grettir the Strong. 



154. An eighth I know, that is to all 

Of greatest good to learn; 
When hatred grows among heroes* sons, 
I soon can set it right. 

155. A ninth I know, if need there comes 

To shelter my ship on the flood; 
The wind I calm upon the waves, 
And the sea I put to sleep. 

156. A tenth I know, what time I see 

House-riders flying on high; 
So can I work that wildly they go. 
Showing their true shapes. 
Hence to their own homes. 

157. An eleventh I know, if needs I must lead 

To the fight my long-loved friends ; 
I sing in the shields, and in strength they go 
Whole to the field of fight, 
Whole from the field of fight, 
And whole they come thence home. 

158. A twelfth I know, if high on a tree 

I see a hanged man swing ; 

156. House-riders: witches, who ride by night on the roofs of 
houses, generally in the form of wild beasts. Possibly one of the 
last two lines is spurious. 

157. The last line looks like an unwarranted addition, and 
line 4 may likewise be spurious. 

158. Lines 4-5 are probably expanded from a single line. 


Poetic Edda 

So do I write and color the runes 
That forth he fares, 
And to me talks. 

159. A thirteenth I know, if a thane full young 

With water I sprinkle well ; 
He shall not fall, though he fares mid the host, 
Nor sink beneath the swords. 

160. A fourteenth I know, if fain I would name 

To men the mighty gods; 
All know I well of the gods and elves, — 
Few be the fools know this. 

161. A fifteenth I know, that before the doors 

Of Delling sang Thjothrorir the dwarf; 
Might he sang for the gods, and glory for elves, 
And wisdom for Hroptatyr wise. 

162. A sixteenth I know, if I seek delight 

To win from a maiden wise; 
The mind I turn of the white-armed maid, 
And thus change all her thoughts. 

159. The sprinkling of a child with water was an established 
custom long before Christianity brought its conception of 

161. This stanza, according to Mullenhoff, was the original 
conclusion of the poem, the phrase "a fifteenth" being inserted 
only after stanzas 162-165 had crept in. Delling: a seldom men- 
tioned god who married Not (Night). Their son was Dag (Day). 
Thjothrorir: not mentioned elsewhere. Hroptatyr: Othin. 



163. A seventeenth I know, so that seldom shall go 
A maiden young from me; 

164. Long these songs thou shalt, Loddfafnir, 

Seek in vain to sing; 
Yet good it vv^ere if thou mightest get them, 
Well, if thou wouldst them learn, 
Help, if thou hadst them. 

165. An eighteenth I know, that ne'er will I tell 

To maiden or wife of man, — 
The best is what none but one's self doth know, 

So comes the end of the songs, — 
Save only to her in whose arms I lie. 

Or who else my sister is. 

163. Some editors have combined these two lines with stanza 
164. Others have assumed that the gap follows the first half -line, 
making "so that — from me" the end of the stanza. 

164. This stanza is almost certainly an interpolation, and 
seems to have been introduced after the list of charms and the 
Loddfafnismol (stanzas 111-138) were combined in a single 
poem, for there is no other apparent excuse for the reference to 
Loddfafnir at this point. The words "if thou mightest get them" 
are a conjectural emendation. 

165. This stanza is almost totally obscure. The third and 
fourth lines look like interpolations. 


The Ballad of Vafthruthnir 

Introductory Note 
The Fafthruthnismol follows the Hovamol in the Codex 
Regius. From stanza 20 on it is also included in the Arna- 
magnaan Codex, the first part evidently having appeared on a 
leaf now lost. Snorri quotes eight stanzas of it in the Prose Edda, 
and in his prose text closely paraphrases many others. 

The poem is wholly in dialogue form except for a single 
narrative stanza (stanza 5). After a brief introductory discus- 
sion between Othin and his wife, Frigg, concerning the reputed 
wisdom of the giant Vafthruthnir, Othin, always in quest of 
wisdom, seeks out the giant, calling himself Gagnrath. The giant 
immediately insists that they shall demonstrate which is the 
wiser of the two, and propounds four questions (stanzas 11, 13, 
15, and 17), each of which Othin answers. It is then the god's 
turn to ask, and he begins with a series of twelve numbered 
questions regarding the origins and past history of life. These 
Vafthruthnir answers, and Othin asks five more questions, 
this time referring to what is to follow the destruction of the 
gods, the last one asking the name of his own slayer. Again 
Vafthruthnir answers, and Othin finally propounds the unanswer- 
able question: "What spake Othin himself in the ears of his son, 
ere in the bale-fire he burned?" Vafthruthnir, recognizing his 
questioner as Othin himself, admits his inferiority in wisdom, 
and so the contest ends. 

The whole poem is essentially encyclopaedic in character, and 
thus was particularly useful to Snorri in his preparation of the 
Prose Edda. The encyclopaedic poem with a slight narrative 
outline seems to have been exceedingly popular; the Grimnismol 
and the much later Alvissmol represent different phases of the 
same type. The Fafthruthnismol and Grimnismol together, in- 
deed, constitute a fairly complete dictionary of Norse mythology. 
There has been much discussion as to the probable date of the 
Fafthruthnismol, but it appears to belong to about the same 
period as the Foluspo: in other words, the middle of the tenth 
century. While there may be a few interpolated passages in the 
poem as we now have it, it is clearly a united whole, and evi- 
dently in relatively good condition. 



Othin spake: 

1. "Counsel me, Frigg, for I long to fare, 

And Vafthruthnir fain would find ; 
In wisdom old with the giant wise 
Myself would I seek to match." 

Frigg spake: 

2. "Heerfather here at home would I keep, 

Where the gods together dwell; 
Amid all the giants an equal in might 
To Vafthruthnir know I none." 

Othin spake: 

3. "Much have I fared, much have I found, 

Much have I got from the gods ; 
And fain would I know how Vafthruthnir now 
Lives in his lofty hall." 

Frigg spake: 

4. "Safe mayst thou go, safe come again, 

And safe be the way thou wendest! 
Father of men, let thy mind be keen 
When speech with the giant thou seekest." 

5. The wisdom then of the giant wise 

I. The phrases "Othin spake," "Frigg spake," etc., appear 
in abbreviated form in both manuscripts. Frigg: Othin's wife; 
of. Voluspo, 34 and note. Vafthruthnir ("the Mighty in Rid- 
dles") : nothing is known of this giant beyond what is told in this 

3. Heerfather ("Father of the Host") : Othin. 

5. This single narrative stanza is presumably a later interpo< 


Poetic Edda 

Forth did he fare to try; 
He found the hall of the father of Im, 
And in forthwith went Ygg. 

Othin spake: 
"Vafthruthnir, hail! to thy hall am I come, 

For thyself I fain would see ; 
And first would I ask if wise thou art, 

Or, giant, all wisdom hast won." 

Vafthruthnir spake: 
"Who is the man that speaks to me, 

Here in my lofty hall ? 
Forth from our dwelling thou never shalt fare. 

Unless wiser than I thou art." 

Othin spake: 
"Gagnrath they call me, and thirsty I come 

From a journey hard to thy hall; 
Welcome I look for, for long have I fared. 

And gentle greeting, giant." 

Vafthruthnir spake: 
"Why standest thou there on the floor whilst thou 
speakest ? 
A seat shalt thou have in my hall ; 

lation. Im: the name appears to be corrupt, but we know nothing 
of any son of Vafthruthnir. Ygg ("the Terrible") ; Othin. 

8. Gagnrath ("the Gain-Counsellor") : Othin on his travels 
always assumes a name other than his own. 



Then soon shall we know whose knowledge is 
The guest's or the sage's gray." 

Othin spake: 

10. "If a poor man reaches the home of the rich, 

Let him wisely speak or be still ; 
For to him who speaks with the hard of heart 
Will chattering ever work ill." 

Vafthruthnir spake: 

11. "Speak forth now, Gagnrath, if there from the 

Thou wouldst thy wisdom make known: 
What name has the steed that each mom anew 
The day for mankind doth draw?" 

Othin spake: 

12. "Skinfaxi is he, the steed who for men 

The glittering day doth draw; 
The best of horses to heroes he seems, 
And brightly his mane doth burn." 

Vafthruthnir spake: 

13. "Speak forth now, Gagnrath, if there from the 


10. This stanza sounds very much like many of those in the 
first part of the Hovamol, and may have been introduced here 
from some such source. 

12. Skinfaxi: "Shining-Mane." 


Poetic Edda 

Thou wouldst thy wisdom make known : 
What name has the steed that from East anew 
Brings night for the noble gods?" 

Othin spake: 

14. "Hrimfaxi name they the steed that anew 

Brings night for the noble gods; 
Each morning foam from his bit there falls, 
And thence come the dews in the dales." 

Vafthruthnir spake: 

15. "Speak forth now, Gagnrath, if there from the 

Thou wouldst thy wisdom make known: 
What name has the river that 'twixt the realms 
Of the gods and the giants goes?" 

Othin spake: 

16. "Ifing is the river that 'twixt the realms 

Of the gods and the giants goes ; 
For all time ever open it flows, 
No ice on the river there is." 

Vafthruthnir spake: 

17. "Speak forth now, Gagnrath, if there from the 


13. Here, and in general throughout the poem, the two-line 
introductory formulae are abbreviated in the manuscripts. 

14. Hrimfaxi: "Frosty-Mane." 

16. Ifing: there is no other reference to this river, which 
never freezes, so that the giants cannot cross it. 



Thou wouldst thy wisdom make known: 
What name has the field where in fight shall meet 
Surt and the gracious gods?" 

Othin spake: 

1 8. "Vigrith is the field where in fight shall meet 

Surt and the gracious gods; 
A hundred miles each way does it measure, 
And so are its boundaries set." 

Vafthruthnir spake: 

19. "Wise art thou, guest ! To my bench shalt thou go, 

In our seats let us speak together ; 
Here in the hall our heads, O guest, 
Shall we wager our wisdom upon." 

Othin spake: 

20. "First answer me well, if thy wisdom avails. 

And thou knowest it, Vafthruthnir, now: 
In earliest time whence came the earth. 
Or the sky, thou giant sage ?" 

17. Surt: the ruler of the fire-world (Muspcllsheim), who 
comes to attack the gods in the last battle; cf. Voluspo, 52. 

18. Vigrith: "the Field of Battle." Snorri quotes this stanza. 
A hundred miles: a general phrase for a vast distance. 

19. With this stanza Vafthruthnir, sufficiently impressed with 
his guest's wisdom to invite hira to share his own seat, resigns 
the questioning to Othin. 

20. The fragmentary version of this poem in the Arita- 
magnaan Codex begins in the middle of the first line of this 


Poetic Edda 

Vafthruthnir spake: 

21. "Out of Ymir's flesh was fashioned the earth, 

And the mountains were made of his bones ; 
The sky from the frost-cold giant's skull, 
And the ocean out of his blood." 

Othin spake: 

22. "Next answer me well, if thy wisdom avails. 

And thou knowest it, Vafthruthnir, now: 
Whence came the moon, o'er the world of men 
That fares, and the flaming sun ?" 

Vafthruthnir spake: 

23. "Mundilferi is he who begat the moon, 

And fathered the flaming sun; 
The round of heaven each day they run, 
To tell the time for men." 

Othin spake: 

24. "Third answer me well, if wise thou art called, 

If thou knowest it, Vafthruthnir, now: 
Whence came the day, o'er mankind that fares. 
Or night with the narrowing moon?" 

21. Ymir: the giant out of whose body the gods made the 
world ; cf . Voluspo, 3 and note. 

22. In this and in Othin's following questions, both manu- 
scripts replace the words "next," "third," "fourth," etc., by 
Roman numerals. 

23. Mundilferi ("the Turner"?): known only as the father 
of Mani (the Moon) and Sol (the Sun). Note that, curiously 



Vafthruthnir spake: 

25. "The father of day is Delling called, 

And the night was begotten by Nor; 
Full moon and old by the gods were fashioned, 
To tell the time for men." 

Othin spake: 

26. "Fourth answer me well, if wise thou art called. 

If thou knowest it, Vafthruthnir, now: 
Whence did winter come, or the summer warm, 
First with the gracious gods?" 

Vafthruthnir spake: 

27. "Vindsval he was who was winter's father. 

And Svosuth summer begat;" 

enough, Mani is the boy and Sol the girl. According to Snorri, 
Sol drove the horses of the sun, and Mani those of the moon, 
for the gods, indignant that they should have been given such 
imposing names, took them from their father to perform these 
tasks. Cf. Grimnismol, 37. 

25. Delling ("the Dayspring"? Probably another form of 
the name, Dogling, meaning "Son of the Dew" is more correct) : 
the husband of Not (Night) ; their son was Dag (Day) ; cf. 
Hovamol, 161. Nor: Snorri calls the father of Night Norvi or 
Narfi, and puts him among the giants. Lines 3-4: cf. Voluspo, 6. 

27. Neither the Regius nor the Arnamagneean Codex indi- 
cates a lacuna. Most editors have filled out the stanza with two 
lines from late paper manuscripts: "And both of these shall 
ever be, / Till the gods to destruction go." Bugge ingeniously para- 
phrases Snorri's prose: "Vindsval's father was Vosuth called, 
/ And rough is all his race." Vindsval: "the Wind-Cold," also 
called Vindljoni, "the Wind-Man." Svosuth: "the Gentle." 


Poetic Edda 

Othin spake: 

28. "Fifth answer me well, if wise thou art called, 

If thou knowest it, Vafthruthnir, now: 
What giant first was fashioned of old, 
And the eldest of Ymir's kin ?" 

Vafthruthnir spake: 

29. "Winters unmeasured ere earth was made 

Was the birth of Bergelmir ; 
Thruthgelmir's son was the giant strong, 
And Aurgelmir's grandson of old." 

Othin spake: 

30. "Sixth answer me well, if wise thou art called, 

If thou knowest it, Vafthruthnir, now: 
Whence did Aurgelmir come with the giants' kin, 
Long since, thou giant sage?" 

Vafthruthnir spake: 

31. "Down from Elivagar did venom drop. 

And waxed till a giant it was; 

28. Ymir's kin: the giants. 

29. Bergelmir: when the gods slew Ymir in order to make the 
world out of his body, so much blood flowed from him that all 
the frost-giants were drowned except Bergelmir and his wife, 
who escaped in a boat; of. stanza 35. Of Thruthgelmir ("the 
Mightily Burning") we know nothing, but Aurgelmir was the 
frost-giants' name for Ymir himself. Thus Ymir was the first 
of the giants, and so Othin's question is answered. 

31. Snorri quotes this stanza, and the last two lines are taken 
from his version, as both of the manuscripts omit them. Elivagar 
("Stormy Waves") : Mogk suggests that this river may have 
been the Milky Way. At any rate, the venom carried in its waters 



And thence arose our giants' race, 
And thus so fierce are we found." 

Othin spake: 

32. "Seventh answer me well, if wise thou art called, 

If thou knowest it, Vaf thruthnir, now : 
How begat he children, the giant grim, 
Who never a giantess knew?" 

Vaf thruthnir spake: 

33. "They say 'neath the arms of the giant of ice 

Grew man-child and maid together; 
And foot with foot did the wise one fashion 
A son that six heads bore." 

Othin spake: 

34. "Eighth answer me well, if wise thou art called, 

If thou knowest it, Vaf thruthnir, now : 
What farthest back dost thou bear in mind ? 
For wide is thy wisdom, giant!" 

froze into ice-banks over Ginnunga-gap (the "yawning gap" re- 
ferred to in Voluspo, 3), and then dripped down to make the 
giant Yrair. 

33. Snorri gives, without materially elaborating on it, the 
same account of how Ymir's son and daughter were born under 
his left arm, and how his feet together created a son. That 
this offspring should have had six heads is nothing out of the 
ordinary, for various giants had more than the normal number, 
and Hymir's mother is credited with a little matter of nine hun- 
dred heads; cf. Hymiskvitha, 8. Of the career of Ymir's six- 
headed son we know nothing; he may have been the Thruthgel- 
mir of stanza 29. 

Poetic Edda 

Vafthruthnir spake: 

35. "Winters unmeasured ere earth was made 

Was the birth of Bergelmir; 
This first knew I well, when the giant wise 
In a boat of old was borne." 

Othin spake: 

36. "Ninth answer me well, if wise thou art called, 

If thou knowest it, Vafthruthnir, now: 
Whence comes the wind that fares o'er the waves 
Yet never itself is seen?" 

Vafthruthnir spake: 

37. "In an eagle's guise at the end of heaven 

Hraesvelg sits, they say; 
And from his wings does the wind come forth 
To move o'er the world of men." 

Othin spake: 

38. "Tenth answer me now, if thou knowest all 

The fate that is fixed for the gods: 

35. Snorri quotes this stanza. Bergelmir: on him and his boat 
cf. stanza 29 and note. 

37. Snorri quotes this stanza. Hrasvelg ("the Corpse-Eater") : 
on this giant in eagle's form cf. Voluspo, 50, and Skirnismol, 27. 

38. With this stanza the question-formula changes, and 
Othin's questions from this point on concern more or less directly 
the great final struggle. Line 4 is presumably spurious. Njorth: 
on Njorth and the Wanes, who gave him as a hostage to the 
gods at the end of their war, cf. Voluspo, 21 and note. 



Whence came up Njorth to the kin of the gods, — 
(Rich in temples and shrines he rules, — ) 
Though of gods he was never begot?" 

Vafthruthnir spake: 

39. "In the home of the Wanes did the wise ones 

create him, 
And gave him as pledge to the gods; 
At the fall of the world shall he fare once more 
Home to the Wanes so wise." 

Othin spake: 

40. "Eleventh answer me well, 

What men in home 

Each day to fight go forth ?" 

Vafthruthnir spake: 
41. "The heroes all in Othin's hall 
Each day to fight go forth; 

40. In both manuscripts, apparently through the carelessness 
of some older copyist, stanzas 40 and 41 are run together: "Elev- 
enth answer me well, what men in the home mightily battle each 
day? They fell each other, and fare from the fight all healed 
full soon to sit." Luckily Snorri quotes stanza 41 in full, and 
the translation is from his version. Stanza 40 should probably run 
something like this: "Eleventh answer me well, if thou knowest 
all / The fate that is fixed for the gods: / What men are 
they who in Othin's home / Each day to fight go forth?" 

41. The heroes: those brought to Valhall by the Valkyries. 
After the day's fighting they are healed of their wounds and all 
feast together. 


Poetic Edda 

They fell each other, and fare from the fight 
All healed full soon to sit." 

Othin spake: 

42. "Twelfth answer me now how all thou knowest 

Of the fate that is fixed for the gods ; 
Of the runes of the gods and the giants' race 
The truth indeed dost thou tell, 
(And wide is thy wisdom, giant!)" 

Vafthruthnir spake: 

43. "Of the runes of the gods and the giants' race 

The truth indeed can I tell, 
(For to every world have I won;) 
To nine worlds came I, to Niflhel beneath, 
The home where dead men dwell." 

Othin spake: 

44. "Much have I fared, much have I found. 

Much have I got of the gods: 
What shall live of mankind when at last there 
The mighty winter to men?" 

Vafthruthnir spake: 

45. "In Hoddmimir's wood shall hide themselves 

Lif and Lifthrasir then; 

43. Nine ivorlds: cf. Voluspo, 2. Niflhel: "Dark-Hell." 

44. The mighty ivinter: Before the final destruction three 
winters follow one another with no intervening summers. 

45. Snorri quotes this stanza. Hoddmimir's ivood: probably 



The morning dews for meat shall they have, 
Such food shall men then find." 

Othin spake: 

46. "Much have I fared, much have I found, 

Much have I got of the gods: 
Whence comes the sun to the smooth sky back, 
When Fenrir has snatched it forth ?" 

Vafthruthnir spake: 

47. "A daughter bright Alfrothul bears 

Ere Fenrir snatches her forth ; 
Her mother's paths shall the maiden tread 
When the gods to death have gone." 

Othin spake: 

48. "Much have I fared, much have I found. 

Much have I got of the gods: 
What maidens are they, so wise of mind. 
That forth o'er the sea shall fare ?" 

this is the ash-tree Yggdrasil, which is sometimes referred to as 
"Mimir's Tree," because Mirair waters it from his well; cf. 
Voluspo, 27 and note, and Svipdagsmol, 30 and note. Hoddmimir 
is presumably another name for Mimir. L'tf ("Life") and 
Lifthrasir ("Sturdy of Life"?) : nothing further is known of this 
pair, from whom the new race of men is to spring. 

46. Fenrir: there appears to be a confusion between the wolf 
Fenrir (cf. Voluspo, 39 and note) and his son, the wolf Skoll, 
who steals the sun (cf. Voluspo, 40 and note). 

47. Snorri quotes this stanza. Alfrothul ("the Elf-Beam") : 
the sun. 


Poetic Edda 

Vafthruthnir spake: 

49. "O'er Mogthrasir's hill shall the maidens pass, 

And three are their throngs that come ; 
They all shall protect the dwellers on earth, 
Though they come of the giants' kin." 

Othin spake: 

50. "Much have I fared, much have I found. 

Much have I got of the gods: 
Who then shall rule the realm of the gods, 
When the fires of Surt have sunk ?" 

Vafthruthnir spake: 

51. "In the gods' home Vithar and Vali shall dwell, 

When the fires of Surt have sunk ; 
Mothi and Magni shall Mjollnir have 
When Vingnir falls in fight." 

Othin spake: 

52. "Much have I fared, much have I found. 

Much have I got of the gods : 

49. Mogthrasir ("Desiring Sons") : not mentioned elsewhere 
in the Eddie poenas, or by Snorri. The maidens: apparently 
Norns, like the "giant-maids" in Voluspo, 8. These Norns, how- 
ever, are kindly to men. 

50. Surt: cf. Voluspo, 52 and note. 

51. Vithar: a son of Othin, who slays the wolf Fenrir; cf. 
Voluspo, 54 and note. Vali: the son whom Othin begot to avenge 
Baldr's death; cf. Voluspo, 33 and note. Mothi ("Wrath") and 
Magni ("Might") : the sons of the god Thor, who after his 
death inherit his famous hammer, Mjollnir. Concerning this 
hammer cf. especially Thrymskvitha, passim. Vingnir ("the 



What shall bring the doom of death to Othin, 
When the gods to destruction go ?" 

Vafthruthnir spake: 

53. "The wolf shall fell the father of men, 

And this shall Vithar avenge ; 
The terrible jaws shall he tear apart, 
And so the wolf shall he slay." 

Othin spake: 

54. "Much have I fared, much have I found, 

Much have I got from the gods : 
What spake Othin himself in the ears of his son. 
Ere in the bale-fire he burned ?" 

Vafthruthnir spake: 

55. "No man can tell what in olden time 

Thou spak'st in the ears of thy son ; 
With fated mouth the fall of the gods 

And mine olden tales have I told ; 
With Othin in knowledge now have I striven, 

And ever the wiser thou art." 

Hurler") : Thor. Concerning his death cf. Voluspo, 56. This 
stanza is quoted by Snorri. 

53. The ivolf: Fenrir; cf. Voluspo, 53 and 54. 

54. His son: Baldr. Bugge changes lines 3-4 to run: "What 
did Othin speak in the ear of Baldr, / When to the bale-fire 
they bore him?" For Baldr's death cf. Voluspo, 32 and note. The 
question is, of course, unanswerable save by Othin himself, and so 
the giant at last recognizes his guest. 

55. Fated: in stanza 19 Vafthruthnir was rash enough to 
wager his head against his guest's on the outcome of the contest 
of wisdom, so he knows that his defeat means his death. 



The Ballad of Grimnir 

Introductory Note 

The Grimnismol follows the Vafthruthnismol in the Codex 
Regius and is also found complete in the Arnamagnaan Codex, 
where also it follows the Vafthruthnismol. Snorri quotes over 
twenty of its stanzas. 

Like the preceding poem, the Grimnismol is largely encyclo- 
pedic in nature, and consists chiefly of proper names, the last 
forty-seven stanzas containing no less than two hundred and 
twenty-five of these. It is not, however, in dialogue form. As 
Miillenhoff pointed out, there is underneath the catalogue of 
mythological names a consecutive and thoroughly dramatic story. 
Othin, concealed under the name of Grimnir, is through an error 
tortured by King Geirroth. Bound between two blazing fires, he 
begins to display his wisdom for the benefit of the king's little son, 
Agnar, who has been kind to him. Gradually he works up to the 
great final moment, when he declares his true name, or rather 
names, to the terrified Geirroth, and the latter falls on his sword 
and is killed. 

For much of this story we do not have to depend on guess- 
work, for in both manuscripts the poem itself is preceded by a 
prose narrative of considerable length, and concluded by a brief 
prose statement of the manner of Geirroth's death. These prose 
notes, of which there are many in the Eddie manuscripts, are of 
considerable interest to the student of early literary forms. Pre- 
sumably they were written by the compiler to whom we owe the 
Eddie collection, who felt that the poems needed such annotation 
in order to be clear. Linguistic evidence shows that they were 
written in the twelfth or thirteenth century, for they preserve 
none of the older word-forms which help us to date many of the 
poems two or three hundred years earlier. 

Without discussing in detail the problems suggested by these 
prose passages, it is worth noting, first, that the Eddie poems 
contain relatively few stanzas of truly narrative verse; and 
second, that all of them are based on narratives which must 
have been more or less familiar to the hearers of the poems. 
In other words, the poems seldom aimed to tell stories, although 
most of them followed a narrative sequence of ideas. The stories 



themselves appear to have lived in oral prose tradition, just as 
in the case of the sagas ; and the prose notes of the manuscripts, 
in so far as they contain material not simply drawn from the 
poems themselves, are relics of this tradition. The early Norse 
poets rarely conceived verse as a suitable means for direct story- 
telling, and in some of the poems even the simplest action is told 
in prose "links" between dialogue stanzas. 

The applications of this fact, which has been too often over- 
looked, are almost limitless, for it suggests a still unwritten 
chapter in the history of ballad poetry and the so-called "pop- 
ular" epic. It implies that narrative among early peoples may 
frequently have had a period of prose existence before it was made 
into verse, and thus puts, for example, a long series of transi- 
tional stages before such a poem as the Iliad. In any case, the 
prose notes accompanying the Eddie poems prove that in addition 
to the poems themselves there existed in the twelfth century a 
considerable amount of narrative tradition, presumably in prose 
form, on which these notes were based by the compiler. 

Interpolations in such a poem as the Grimnismol could have 
been made easily enough, and many stanzas have undoubtedly 
crept in from other poems, but the beginning and end of the 
poem are clearly marked, and presumably it has come down to 
us with the same essential outline it had when it was composed, 
probably in the first half of the tenth century. 

King Hrauthung had two sons: one was called Agnar, 
and the other Geirroth. Agnar was ten winters old, and 
Geirroth eight. Once they both rowed in a boat with their 
fishing-gear to catch little fish; and the wind drove them 
out into the sea. In the darkness of the night they were 
wrecked on the shore; and going up, they found a poor 
peasant, with whom they stayed through the winter. The 
housewife took care of Agnar, and the peasant cared for 

Prose. The texts of the two manuscripts differ in many minor 
details. Hrauthung : this mythical king is not mentioned else- 
where. Geirroth: the manuscripts spell his name in various ways 


Poetic Edda 

Geirroth, and taught him wisdom. In the spring the 
peasant gave him a boat ; and when the couple led them to 
the shore, the peasant spoke secretly with Geirroth. They 
had a fair wind, and came to their father's landing-place. 
Geirroth was forward in the boat; he leaped up on land, 
but pushed out the boat and said, "Go thou now where 
evil may have thee!" The boat drifted out to sea. Geir- 
roth, however, went up to the house, and was well re- 
ceived, but his father was dead. Then Geirroth was made 
king, and became a renowned man. 

Othin and Frigg sat in Hlithskjolf and looked over all 
the worlds. Othin said: "Seest thou Agnar, thy foster- 
ling, how he begets children with a giantess in the cave? 
But Geirroth, my fosterling, is a king, and now rules over 
his land." Frigg said: "He is so miserly that he tortures 
his guests if he thinks that too many of them come to him." 
Othin replied that this was the greatest of lies; and they 
made a wager about this matter. Frigg sent her maid- 
servant, Fulla, to Geirroth. She bade the king beware 
lest a magician who was come thither to his land should 
bewitch him, and told this sign concerning him, that no 
dog was so fierce as to leap at him. Now it was a very 
great slander that King Geirroth was not hospitable; but 
nevertheless he had them take the man whom the dogs 
would not attack. He wore a dark-blue mantle and called 
himself Grimnir, but said no more about himself, though 

Frigg: Othin's wife. She and Othin nearly always disagreed in 
some such way as the one outlined in this story. Hlithskjolf 
("Gate-Shelf") : Othin's watch-tower in heaven, whence he can 
overlook all the nine worlds; cf. Skirnismol, introductory prose. 
Grimnir: "the Hooded One." 



he was questioned. The king had him tortured to make 
him speak, and set him between two fires, and he sat there 
eight nights. King Geirroth had a son ten winters old, 
and called Agnar after his father's brother. Agnar went 
to Grimnir, and gave him a full horn to drink from, and 
said that the king did ill in letting him be tormented with- 
out cause. Grimnir drank from the horn; the fire had 
come so near that the mantle burned on Grimnir's back. 
He spake : 

1. Hot art thou, fire! too fierce by far ; 

Get ye now gone, ye flames! 
The mantle is burnt, though I bear it aloft, 
And the fire scorches the fur. 

2. 'Twixt the fires now eight nights have I sat. 

And no man brought meat to me. 
Save Agnar alone, and alone shall rule 
Geirroth's son o'er the Goths. 

3. Hail to thee, Agnar! for hailed thou art 

By the voice of Veratyr ; 

2. In the original lines 2 and 4 are both too long for the 
meter, and thus the true form of the stanza is doubtful. For 
line 4 both manuscripts have "the land of the Goths" instead of 
simply "the Goths." The word "Goths" apparently was applied 
indiscriminately to any South-Germanic people, including the 
Burgundians as well as the actual Goths, and thus here has no 
specific application; cf. Gripisspo, 35 and note. 


Poetic Edda 

For a single drink shalt thou never receive 
A greater gift as reward. 

4. The land is holy that lies hard by 

The gods and the elves together; 
And Thor shall ever in Thruthheim dw^ell, 
Till the gods to destruction go. 

5. Ydalir call they the place vi^here Ull 

A hall for himself hath set ; 
And Alfheim the gods to Freyr once gave 
As a tooth-gift in ancient times. 

6. A third home is there, with silver thatched 

By the hands of the gracious gods: 
Valaskjolf is it, in days of old 
Set by a god for himself. 

7. Sokkvabekk is the fourth, where cool waves flow. 

3. Veratyr ("Lord of Men") : Othin. The "gift" which Agnar 
receives is Othin's mythological lore. 

4. Thruthheim ("the Place of Might") : the place where 
Thor, the strongest of the gods, has his hall, Bilskirnir, described 
in stanza 24. 

5. Ydalir ("Yew-Dales") : the home of Ull, the archer among 
the gods, a son of Thor's wife, Sif, by-- another marriage. The 
wood of the yew-tree was used for bows in the North just as it 
was long afterwards in England. Alfheim: the home of the 
elves. Freyr: cf. Skirnismol, introductory prose and note. Tooth- 
gift: the custom of making a present to a child when it cuts its 
first tooth is, according to Vigfusson, still in vogue in Iceland. 

6. Valaskjolf ("the Shelf of the Slain") : Othin's home, in 
which is his watch-tower, HIithskjolf. Gering identifies this with 
Valhall, and as that is mentioned in stanza 8, he believes stanza 
6 to be an interpolation. 



And amid their murmur it stands; 
There dailj' do Othin and Saga drink 
In gladness from cups of gold. 

8. The fifth is Glathsheim, and gold-bright there 

Stands Valhall stretching wide; 
And there does Othin each day choose 
The men who have fallen in fight. 

9. Easy is it to know for him who to Othin 

Comes and beholds the hall ; 
Its rafters are spears, with shields is it roofed, 
On its benches are breastplates strewn. 

10. Easy is it to know for him who to Othin 

Comes and beholds the hall ; 
There hangs a wolf by the western door, 
And o'er it an eagle hovers. 

11. The sixth is Thryniheim, where Thjazi dwelt, 

The giant of marvelous might; 

7. Sokkvabekk ("the Sinking Stream") : of this spot and of 
Saga, who is said to live there, little is known. Saga may be an 
hypostasis of Frigg, but Snorri calls her a distinct goddess, and 
the name suggests some relation to history or story-telling. 

8. Glathsheim ("the Place of Joy") : Othin's home, the greatest 
and most beautiful hall in the world. Valhall ("Hall of the 
Slain") : of. Voluspo, 31 and note. Valhall is not only the hall 
whither the slain heroes are brought by the Valkyries, but also 
a favorite home of Othin. 

10. The opening formula is abbreviated in both manuscripts. 
A luolf: probably the wolf and the eagle were carved figures 
above the door. 


Poetic Edda 

Now Skathi abides, the god's fair bride, 
In the home that her father had. 

12. The seventh is Breithablik ; Baldr has there 

For himself a dwelling set, 
In the land I know that lies so fair, 
And from evil fate is free. 

13. Himinbjorg is the eighth, and Heimdall there 

O'er men holds sway, it is said ; 
In his well-built house does the warder of heaven 
The good mead gladly drink. 

14. The ninth is Folkvang, where Freyja decrees 

11. Thrymheim ("the Home of Clamor") : on this mountain 
the giant Thjazi built his home. The god, or rather Wane, 
Njorth (cf. Voluspo, 21, note) married Thjazi's daughter, 
Skathi. She wished to live in her father's hall among the moun- 
tains, while Njorth loved his home, Noatun, by the sea. They 
agreed to compromise by spending nine nights at Thrymheim 
and then three at Noatun, but neither could endure the surround- 
ings of the other's home, so Skathi returned to Thrymheim, while 
Njorth stayed at Noatun. Snorri quotes stanzas 11-15. 

12. Breithablik ("Wide-Shining") : the house in heaven, free 
from everything unclean, in which Baldr (cf. Voluspo, 32, note), 
the fairest and best of the gods, lived. 

13. Himinbjorg ("Heaven's Cliffs") : the dwelling at the end 
of the bridge Bifrost (the rainbow), where Heimdall (cf. 
Voluspo, 27) keeps watch against the coming of the giants. In 
this stanza the two functions of Heimdall — as father of man- 
kind (cf. Voluspo, I and note, and Rigsthula, introductory prose 
and note) and as warder of the gods — seem both to be men- 
tioned, but the second line in the manuscripts is apparently in 
bad shape, and in the editions is more or less conjectural. 

14. Folkvang ("Field of the Folk") : here is situated Freyja's 



Who shall have seats in the hall; 
The half of the dead each day does she choose, 
And half does Othin have. 

15. The tenth is Glitnir; its pillars are gold, 

And its roof v^^ith silver is set ; 
There most of his days does Forseti dwell, 
And sets all strife at end. 

16. The eleventh is Noatun; there has Njorth 

For himself a dwelling set ; 
The sinless ruler of men there sits 
In his temple timbered high. 

1 7. Filled with growing trees and high-standing grass 

Is Vithi, Vithar's land ; 

hall, Sessrymnir ("Rich in Seats"). Freyja, the sister of Freyr, 
is the fairest of the goddesses, and the most kindly disposed to 
mankind, especially to lovers. Half of the dead: Mogk has made 
it clear that Freyja represents a confusion between two originally 
distinct divinities: the wife of Othin (Frigg) and the northern 
goddess of love. This passage appears to have in mind her 
attributes as Othin's wife. Snorri has this same confusion, but 
there is no reason why the Freyja who was Freyr's sister should 
share the slain with Othin. 

15. Glitnir ("the Shining") : the home of Forseti, a god of 
whom we know nothing beyond what Snorri tells us: "Forseti is 
the son of Baldr and Nanna, daughter of Nep. All those who 
come to him with hard cases to settle go away satisfied; he is 
the best judge among gods and men." 

16. Noatun ("Ships'-Haven") : the home of Njorth, who calms 
the waves; cf. stanza ix and Voluspo, 21. 

17. Vithi: this land is not mentioned elsewhere. Vithar 
avenged his father, Othin, by slaying the wolf Fenrir. 


Poetic Edda 

But there did the son from his steed leap down, 
When his father he fain would avenge. 

1 8. In Eldhrimnir Andhrimnir cooks 

Saehrimnir's seething flesh, — 
The best of food, but few men know 
On what fare the warriors feast. 

19. Freki and Geri does Heerfather feed, 

The far-famed fighter of old : 
But on wine alone does the weapon-decked god, 
Othin, forever live. 

20. O'er Mithgarth Hugin and Munin both 

Each day set forth to fly ; 
For Hugin I fear lest he come not home, 
But for Munin my care is more. 

18. Stanzas 18-20 appear also in Snorri's Edda. Very possibly 
they are an interpolation here. Eldhrimnir ("Sooty with Fire") : 
the great kettle in Valhall, wherein the gods' cook, Andhrimnir 
("The Sooty-Faced") daily cooks the flesh of the boar Sahrimnir 
("The Blackened"). His flesh suffices for all the heroes there 
gathered, and each evening he becomes whole again, to be cooked 
the next morning. 

19. Freki ("The Greedy") and Geri ("The Ravenous") : the 
two wolves who sit by Othin's side at the feast, and to whom 
he gives all the food set before him, since wine is food and 
drink alike for him. Heerfather: Othin. 

2a Mithgarth ("The Middle Home") : the earth, Hugin 
("Thought") and Munin ("Memory") : the two ravens who sit 
on Othin's shoulders, and fly forth daily to bring him news of 
the world. 



21. Loud roars Thund, and Thjothvitnir's fish 

Joyously fares in the flood; 
Hard does it seem to the host of the slain 
To wade the torrent wild. 

22. There Valgrind stands, the sacred gate, 

And behind are the holy doors; 
Old is the gate, but few there are 
Who can tell how it tightly is locked. 

23. Five hundred doors and forty there are, 

I ween, in Valhall's walls; 
Eight hundred fighters through one door fare 
When to war with the wolf they go. 

24. Five hundred rooms and forty there are 

I ween, in Bilskirnir built; 

21. Thund ("The Swollen" or "The Roaring") : the river 
surrounding Valhall. Thjothvitnir's fish: presumably the sun, 
which was caught by the wolf SkoU (of. Voluspo, 40), Thjoth- 
vitnir meaning "the mighty wolf." Such a phrase, characteristic 
of all Skaldic poetry, is rather rare in the Edda. The last two 
lines refer to the attack on Valhall by the people of Hel; cf. 
Voluspo, 51. 

22. Valgrind ("The Death-Gate") : the outer gate of Valhall ; 
cf. Sigurtharkvitha en skamma, 68 and note. 

23. This and the following stanza stand in reversed order in 
Regius. Snorri quotes stanza 23 as a proof of the vast size of 
Valhall. The last two lines refer to the final battle with Fenrir 
and the other enemies. 

24. This stanza is almost certainly an interpolation, brought 
in through a confusion of the first two lines with those of stanza 
23. Its description of Thor's house, Bilskirnir (cf. stanza 4 and 


Poetic Edda 

Of all the homes whose roofs I beheld, 
My son's the greatest meseemed. 

25. Heithrun is the goat who stands by Heerfather's 

And the branches of Laerath she bites ; 
The pitcher she fills with the fair, clear mead, 
Ne'er fails the foaming drink. 

26. Eikthyrnir is the hart who stands by Heerfather's 

And the branches of Laerath he bites ; 
From his horns a stream into Hvergelmir drops, 
Thence all the rivers run. 

note) has nothing to do with that of Valhall. Snorri quotes the 
stanza in his account of Thor. 

25. The first line in the original is, as indicated in the trans- 
lation, too long, and various attempts to amend it have been 
made. Heithrun: the she-goat who lives on the twigs of the tree 
Larath (presumably the ash Yggdrasil), and daily gives mead 
which, like the boar's flesh, suffices for all the heroes in Valhall. 
In Snorri's Edda Gangleri foolishly asks whether the heroes 
drink water, whereto Har replies, "Do you imagine that Othin 
invites kings and earls and other noble men, and then gives 
them water to drink?" 

26. Eikthyrnir ("The Oak-Thorned," i.e., with antlers, 
"thorns," like an oak) : this animal presumably represents the 
clouds. The first line, like that of stanza 25, is too long in the 
original. Larath: cf. stanza 25, note. Hvergelmir: according to 
Snorri, this spring, "the Cauldron-Roaring," was in the midst 
of Niflheim, the world of darkness and the dead, beneath the 
third root of the ash Yggdrasil. Snorri gives a list of the rivers 
flowing thence nearly identical with the one in the poem. 



27. Sith and Vith, Saekin and iEkin, 

Svol and Fimbulthul, Gunnthro and Fjorm, 

Rin and Rinnandi, 
Gipul and Gopul, Gomul and Geirvimul, 

That flow through the fields of the gods ; 
Thyn and Vin, Thol and Hoi, 

Groth and Gunnthorin. 

28. Vino is one, Vegsvin another. 

And Thjothnuma a third; 
Nyt and Not, Non and Hron, 
Slith and Hrith, Sylg and Ylg, 
Vith and Von, Vond and Strond, 
Gjol and Leipt, that go among men. 

And hence they fall to Hel. 

27. The entire passage from stanza 27 through stanza 35 is 
confused. The whole thing may well be an interpolation. Bugge 
calls stanzas 27-30 an interpolation, and editors who have ac- 
cepted the passage as a whole have rejected various lines. The 
spelling of the names of the rivers varies greatly in the manu- 
scripts and editions. It is needless here to point out the many 
attempted emendations of this list. For a passage presenting 
similar problems, cf. Voluspo, 10-16. Snorri virtually quotes 
stanzas 27-28 in his prose, though not consecutively. The name 
Rin, in line 3, is identical with that for the River Rhine which 
appears frequently in the hero poems, but the similarity is doubt- 
less purely accidental. 

28. Slith may possibly be the same river as that mentioned In 
Voluspo, 36, as flowing through the giants' land. Leipt: in Hel- 
gakvitha Hundingsbana II, 29, this river is mentioned as one 
by which a solemn oath is sworn, and Gering points the parallel 
to the significance of the Styx among the Greeks. The other 
rivers here named are not mentioned elsewhere in the poems. 

, [ 95 ] 

Poetic Edda 

29. Kormt and Ormt and the Kerlaugs twain 

Shall Thor each day wade through, 
(When dooms to give he forth shall go 

To the ash-tree Yggdrasil;) 
For heaven's bridge burns all in flame, 

And the sacred waters seethe. 

30. Glath and Gyllir, Gler and Skeithbrimir, 

Silfrintopp and Sinir, 
Gisl and Falhofnir, Golltopp and Lettfeti, 

On these steeds the gods shall go 
When dooms to give each day they ride 

To the ash-tree Yggdrasil. 

29. This stanza looks as though it originally had had nothing 
to do with the two preceding it. Snorri quotes it in his descrip- 
tion of the three roots of Yggdrasil, and the three springs be- 
neath them. "The third root of the ash stands in heaven and 
beneath this root is a spring which is very holy, and is called 
Urth's well." (Cf. Voluspo, 19) "There the gods have their 
judgment-seat, and thither they ride each day over Bifrost, 
which is also called the Gods' Bridge." Thor has to go on foot 
in the last days of the destruction, when the bridge is burning. 
Another interpretation, however, is that when Thor leaves the 
heavens (i.e., when a thunder-storm is over) the rainbow-bridge 
becomes hot in the sun. Nothing more is known of the rivers 
named in this stanza. Lines 3-4 are almost certainly interpolated 
from stanza 3a 

30. This stanza, again possibly an interpolation, is closely 
paraphrased by Snorri following the passage quoted in the 
previous note. Glath ("Joyous") : identified in the Skaldskaparmal 
with Skinfaxi, the horse of day; cf. Vafthruthnismol, 12. Gyllir: 
"Golden." Gler: "Shining." Skeithbrimir: "Swift-Going." Sil- 
frintopp: "Silver-Topped." Sinir: "Sinewy." Gisl: the mean- 
ing is doubtful ; Gering suggests "Gleaming." Falhofnir: 



31. Three roots there are that three ways run 

'Neath the ash-tree Yggdrasil ; 
'Neath the first lives Hel, 'neath the second the 
'Neath the last are the lands of men. 

32. Ratatosk is the squirrel who there shall run 

On the ash-tree Yggdrasil; 
From above the words of the eagle he bears, 
And tells them to Nithhogg beneath. 

33. Four harts there are, that the highest twigs 

"Hollow-Hoofed." Golltopp ("Gold-Topped") : this horse be- 
longed to Heimdall (cf. Voluspo, i and 46). It is noteworthy 
that gold was one of the attributes of Heimdall's belongings, 
and, because his teeth were of gold, he was also called Gullin- 
tanni ("Gold-Toothed"). Lettfeti: "Light-Feet." Othin's eight- 
footed horse, Sleipnir, is not mentioned in this list. 

31. The first of these roots is the one referred to in stanza 26; 
the second in stanza 29 (cf. notes). Of the third root there is 
nothing noteworthy recorded. After this stanza it is more than 
possible that one has been lost, paraphrased in the prose of 
Snorri's Edda thus: "An eagle sits in the branches of the ash- 
tree, and he is very wise; and between his eyes sits the hawk 
who is called Vethrfolnir." 

32. Ratatosk ("The Swift-Tusked") : concerning this squirrel, 
the Prose Edda has to add only that he runs up and down the 
tree conveying the abusive language of the eagle (see note on 
stanza 31) and the dragon Nithhogg (cf. Voluspo, 39 and note) 
to each other. The hypothesis that Ratatosk "represents the 
undying hatred between the sustaining and the destroying 
elements — the gods and the giants," seems a trifle far-fetched. 

33. Stanzas 33-34 may well be interpolated, and are cer- 
tainly in bad shape in the Mss. Bugge points out that they are 
probably of later origin than those surrounding them. Snorri 


Poetic Edda 

Nibble with necks bent back; 

Dain and Dvalin, 

Duneyr and Dyrathror. 

34. More serpents there are beneath the ash 
Than an unwise ape would think ; 

Goin and Moin, Grafvitnir's sons, 
Grabak and Grafvolluth, 

Ofnir and Svafnir shall ever, methinks. 
Gnaw at the twigs of the tree. 

35- Yggdrasil's ash great evil suffers. 
Far more than men do know; 

closely paraphrases stanza 33, but without elaboration, and 
nothing further is known of the four harts. It may be guessed, 
however, that they are a late multiplication of the single hart 
mentioned in stanza 26, just as the list of dragons in stanza 34 
seems to have been expanded out of Nithhogg, the only authentic 
dragon under the root of the ash. Highest tivigs: a guess; the 
Mss. words are baffling. Something has apparently been lost 
from lines 3-4, but there is no clue as to its nature. 

34. Cf. note on previous stanza. Nothing further is known of 
any of the serpents here listed, and the meanings of many of the 
names are conjectural. Snorri quotes this stanza. Editors have 
altered it in various ways in an attempt to regularize the meter. 
Goin and Main: meaning obscure. Grafvitnir: "The Gnawing 
Wolf." Grahak: "Gray-Back." Grafvolluth: "The Field- 
Gnawer." Ofnir and Svafnir ("The Bewilderer" and "The 
Sleep-Bringer") : it is noteworthy that in stanza 54 Othin gives 
himself these two names. 

35. Snorri quotes this stanza, which concludes the passage, 
beginning with stanza 25, describing Yggdrasil. If we assume 
that stanzas 27-34 are later interpolations — possibly excepting 
32 — this section of the poem reads clearly enough. 



The hart bites its top, its trunk is rotting, 
And Nithhogg gnaws beneath. 

36. Hrist and Mist bring the horn at my will, 

Skeggjold and Skogul; 
Hild and Thruth, Hlok and Herfjotur, 

Gol and Geironul, 
Randgrith and Rathgrith and Reginleif 

Beer to the warriors bring. 

37. Arvak and Alsvith up shall drag 

Weary the weight of the sun ; 
But an iron cool have the kindly gods 
Of yore set under their yokes. 

36. Snorri quotes this list of the Valkyries, concerning whono 
ci, Voluspo, 31 and note, where a different list of names is given. 
Hrist: "Shaker." Mist: "Mist." Skeggjold: "Ax-Time." Skogul: 
"Raging" (?). Hild: "Warrior." Thruth: "Might." Hlok: 
"Shrieking." Herfjotur: "Host-Fetter." Gol: "Screaming." 
Geironul: "Spear-Bearer." Randgrith: "Shield-Bearer." Rath- 
grith: Gering guesses "Plan-Destroyer." Reginleif: "Gods'-Kin." 
Manuscripts and editions vary greatly in the spelling of these 
names, and hence in their significance. 

37. Miillenhoff suspects stanzas 37-41 to have been inter- 
polated, and Edzardi thinks they may have come from the 
Vafthruthnismol. Snorri closely paraphrases stanzas 37-39, and 
quotes 40-41. Arvak ("Early Waker") and Alsvith ("All- 
Swift") : the horses of the sun, named also in Sigrdrifumol, 15. 
According to Snorri: "There was a man called Mundilfari, who 
had two children; they were so fair and lovely that he called his 
son Mani and his daughter Sol. The gods were angry at this 
presumption, and took the children and set them up in heaven ; 
and they bade Sol drive the horses that drew the car of the sun 


Poetic Edda 

38. In front of the sun does Svalin stand, 

The shield for the shining god ; 
Mountains and sea would be set in flames 
If it fell from before the sun. 

39. SkoU is the wolf that to Ironwood 

Follows the glittering god, 
And the son of Hrothvitnir, Hati, awaits 
The burning bride of heaven. 

40. Out of Ymir's flesh was fashioned the earth, 

And the ocean out of his blood ; 
Of his bones the hills, of his hair the trees. 
Of his skull the heavens high. 

which the gods had made to light the world from the sparks 
which flew out of Muspellsheim. The horses were called Alsvith 
and Arvak, and under their yokes the gods set two bellows jto 
cool them, and in some songs these are called 'the cold iron.' " 

38. Svalin ("The Cooling") : the only other reference to this 
shield is in Sigrdrtfumol, 15. 

39. Skoll and Hati: the wolves that devour respectively the 
sun and moon. The latter is the son of Hrothvitnir ("The 
Mighty Wolf," i. e. Fenrir) ; cf. Voluspo, 40, and Vafthruth- 
nismol, 46-47, in which Fenrir appears as the thief. Ironivood: 
a conjectural emendation of ah obscure phrase; cf. Voluspo, 40. 

40. This and the following stanza are quoted by Snorri. They 
seem to have come from a different source from the others of this 
poem; Edzardi suggests an older version of the Vafthruthnismol. 
This stanza is closely parallel to Vafthruthnismol, 21, which see, 
as also Voluspo, 3. Snorri, following this account, has a few de- 
tails to add. The stones were made out of Ymir's teeth and such 
of his bones as were broken. Mithgarth was a mountain-wall 
made out of Ymir's eyebrows, and set around the earth because 
of the enmity of the giants. 



41. Mithgarth the gods from his eyebrows made, 

And set for the sons of men ; 
And out of his brain the baleful clouds 
They made to move on high. 

42. His the favor of UU and of all the gods 

Who first in the flames will reach ; 
For the house can be seen by the sons of the 
If the kettle aside were cast. 

43. In days of old did Ivaldi's sons 

Skithblathnir fashion fair, 
The best of ships for the bright god Freyr, 
The noble son of Njorth. 

42. With this stanza Othin gets back to his immediate situa- 
tion, bound as he is between two fires. He calls down a blessing 
on the man who will reach into the fire and pull aside the great 
kettle which, in Icelandic houses, hung directly under the smoke- 
vent in the roof, and thus kept any one above from looking down 
into the interior. On Ull, the archer-god, cf. stanza 5 and note. 
He is specified here apparently for no better reason than that his 
name fits the initial-rhyme. 

43. This and the following stanza are certainly interpolated, 
for they have nothing to do with the context, and stanza 45 con- 
tinues the dramatic conclusion of the poem begun in stanza 42. 
This stanza is quoted by Snorri. Ivaldi ("The Mighty") : he is 
known only as the father of the craftsmen-dwarfs who made not 
only the ship Skithblathnir, but also Othin's spear Gungnir, and 
the golden hair for Thor's wife, Sif, after Loki had maliciously 
cut her own hair off. Skithblathnir: this ship ("Wooden-Bladed") 
always had a fair wind, whenever the sail was set; it could be 
folded up at will and put in the pocket. Freyr: concerning him 
and his father, see Voluspo, 21, note, and Skirnismol, introductory 
prose and note. 


Poetic Edda 

44. The best of trees must Yggdrasil be, 

Skithblathnir best of boats; 
Of all the gods is Othin the greatest, 

And Sleipnir the best of steeds; 
Bilrost of bridges, Bragi of skalds, 
Hobrok of hawks, and Garm of hounds. 

45. To the race of the gods my face have I raised, 

And the wished-for aid have I waked ; 
For to all the gods has the message gone 
That sit in iEgir's seats. 
That drink within JEgh's doors. 

44. Snorri quotes this stanza. Like stanza 43 an almost certain 
interpolation, it was probably drawn in by the reference to 
Skithblathnir in the stanza interpolated earlier. It is presumably 
in faulty condition. One Ms. has after the fifth line half of a 
sixth, — "Brimir of swords." Yggdrasil: cf. stanzas 25-35. Skith' 
blathnir: cf. stanza 43, note. Sleipnir: Othin's eight-legged horse, 
one of Loki's numerous progeny, borne by him to the stallion 
Svathilfari. This stallion belonged to the giant who built a 
fortress for the gods, and came so near to finishing it, with 
Svathilfari's aid, as to make the gods fear he would win his 
promised reward — Freyja and the sun and moon. To delay the 
work, Loki turned himself into a mare, whereupon the stallion 
ran away, and the giant failed to complete his task within the 
stipulated time. Bilrost: probably another form of Bifrost 
(which Snorri has in his version of the stanza), on which cf. 
stanza 29. Bragi: the god of poetry. He is one of the later figures 
among the gods, and is mentioned only three times in the poems 
of the Edda. In Snorri's Edda, however, he is of great importance. 
His wife is Ithun, goddess of youth. Perhaps the Norwegian skald 
Bragi Boddason, the oldest recorded skaldic poet, had been tra- 
ditionally apotheosized as early as the tenth century. Hobrok: 
nothing further is known of him. Garm: cf. Foluspo, 44. 

45. With this stanza the narrative current of the poem is 
resumed. JEgir: the sea-god; cf. Lokasenna, introductory prose. 



46. Grim is my name, Gangleri am I, 

Herjan and Hjalmberi, 
Thekk and Thrithi, Thuth and Uth, 
Helblindi and Hor; 

47. Sath and Svipal and Sanngetal, 

Herteit and Hnikar, 
Bileyg, Baleyg, Bolverk, Fjolnir, 
Grim and Grimnir, Glapsvith, Fjolsvlth. 

48. Sithhott, Sithskegg, Sigfather, Hnikuth, 

46. Concerning the condition of stanzas 46-50, quoted by 
Snorri, nothing definite can be said. Lines and entire stanzas of 
this "catalogue" sort undoubtedly came and went with great 
freedom all through the period of oral transmission. Many of the 
names are not mentioned elsewhere, and often their significance 
is sheer guesswork. As in nearly every episode Othin appeared 
in disguise, the number of his names was necessarily almost 
limitless. Grim: "The Hooded." Gangleri : "The Wanderer." 
Herjan: "The Ruler." Hjalmberi: "The Helmet-Bearer." Thekk: 
"The Much-Loved." Thrithi: "The Third" (in Snorri's Edda the 
stories are all told in the form of answers to questions, the 
speakers being Har, Jafnhar and Thrithi. Just what this tri- 
partite form of Othin signifies has been the source of endless 
debate. Probably this line is late enough to betray the somewhat 
muddled influence of early Christianity.) Thuth and Uth: both 
names defy guesswork. Helblindi: "Hel-Blinder" (two manu- 
scripts have if fr*/iw</z— "Host-Blinder"). Hor: "The High One." 

47. Sath: "The Truthful." Svipal: "The Changing." Sannge- 
tal: "The Truth-Teller." Herteit: "Glad of the Host." Hnikar: 
"The Overthrower." Bileyg: "The Shifty-Eyed." Baleyg: "The 
Flaming-Eyed." Bolverk: "Doer of 111" (cf. Hovamol, 104 and 
note). Fjolnir: "The Many-Shaped." Grimnir: "The Hooded." 
Glapsvith: "Swift in Deceit." Fjolsvith: "Wide of Wisdom." 

48. Sithhott: "With Broad Hat." Sithskegg: "Long-Bearded." 


Poetic Edda 

Allfather, Valfather, Atrith, Farmatyr: 
A single name have I never had 
Since first among men I fared. 

49. Grimnir they call me in Geirroth's hall, 

With Asmund Jalk am I ; 
Kjalar I was vv^hen I went in a sledge, 

At the council Thror am I called, 

As Vithur I fare to the fight; 
Oski, Biflindi, Jafnhor and Omi, 

Gondlir and Harbarth midst gods. 

50. I deceived the giant Sokkmimir old 

As Svithur and Svithrir of yore; 
Of Mithvitnir's son the slayer I was 
When the famed one found his doom. 

Sigfather: "Father of Victory." Hnikuth: "Overthrower." Val- 
father: "Father of the Slain." Atrith: "The Rider." Farmatyr: 
"Helper of Cargoes" (i. e., god of sailors). 

49. Nothing is known of Asmund, of Othin's appearance as 
Jalk, or of the occasion when he "went in a sledge" as Kjalar 
("Ruler of Keels"?). Thror and Vithur are also of uncertain 
meaning. Oski: "God of Wishes." Biflindi: the manuscripts vary 
widely in the form of this name. Jafnhor: "Equally High" (cf. 
note on stanza 46). Omi: "The Shouter." Gondlir: "Wand- 
Bearer." Harbarth: "Graybeard" (cf. Harbarthsljoth, introduc- 

50. Nothing further is known of the episode here mentioned. 
Sokkmimir is presumably Mithvitnir's son. Snorri quotes the 
names Svithur and Svithrir, but omits all the remainder of the 



51. Drunk art thou, Geirroth, too much didst thou 

Much hast thou lost, for help no more 
From me or my heroes thou hast. 

52. Small heed didst thou take to all that I told, 

And false were the words of thy friends; 
For now the sword of my friend I see. 
That waits all wet with blood. 

53. Thy sword-pierced body shall Ygg have soon, 

For thy life is ended at last; 
The maids are hostile; now Othin behold! 
Now come to me if thou canst ! 

54. Now am I Othin, Ygg was I once, 

Ere that did they call me Thund ; 
Vak and Skilfing, Vofuth and Hroptatyr, 

Gaut and Jalk midst the gods ; 
Ofnir and Svafnir, and all, methinks, 

Are names for none but me. 

51. Again the poem returns to the direct action, Othin address- 
ing the terrified Geirroth. The manuscripts show no lacuna. Some 
editors supply a second line from paper manuscripts: "Greatly by 
me art beguiled." 

53. 11 gg: Othin ("The Terrible"). The maids: the three 

54. Possibly out of place, and probably more or less corrupt. 
T/iund: "The Thunderer." Fak: "The Wakeful." Skilfing: "The 
Shaker." Vofuth: "The Wanderer." Hroptatyr: "Crier of the 
Gods." Gaut: "Father." Ofnir and Svafnir: cf. stanza 34. 


Poetic Edda 

King Geirroth sat and had his sword on his knee, half 
drawn from its sheath. But when he heard that Othin 
was come thither, then he rose up and sought to take 
Othin from the fire. The sword slipped from his hand, 
and fell with the hilt down. The king stumbled and fell 
forward, and the sword pierced him through, and slew 
him. Then Othin vanished, but Agnar long ruled there 
as king. 



The Ballad of Skirnir 

Introductory Note 
The Skirnismol is found complete in the Codex Regius, and 
through stanza 27 in the Arnamagnaan Codex. Snorri quotes the 
concluding stanza. In Regius the poem is entitled "For Scirnis" 
("Skirnir's Journey"). 

The Skirnismol differs sharply from the poems preceding it, 
in that it has a distinctly ballad quality. As a matter of fact, how- 
ever, its verse is altogether dialogue, the narrative being supplied 
in the prose "links," concerning which cf. introductory note to the 
Grimnismol. The dramatic effectiveness and vivid characteriza- 
tion of the poem seem to connect it with the Thrymskvitha, and 
the two may possibly have been put into their present form by the 
same man. Bugge's guess that the Skirnismol was the work of 
the author of the Lokasenna is also possible, though it has less to 
support it. 

Critics have generally agreed in dating the poem as we now 
have it as early as the first half of the tenth century ; Finnur 
Jonsson puts it as early as 900, and claims it, as usual, for Nor- 
way. Doubtless it was current in Norway, in one form or another, 
before the first Icelandic settlements, but his argument that the 
thistle (stanza 31) is not an Icelandic plant has little weight, for 
such curse-formulas must have traveled freely from place to 
place. In view of the evidence pointing to a western origin for 
many or all of the Eddie poems, Jonsson's reiterated "Digtet er 
sikkert norsk og ikke islandsk" is somewhat exasperating. 
Wherever the Skirnismol was composed, it has been preserved in 
exceptionally good condition, and seems to be practically devoid 
of interpolations or lacunae. 

Freyr, the son of Njorth, had sat one day in Hlithskjolf, 
and looked over all the worlds. He looked into Jotun- 
heim, and saw there a fair maiden, as she went from her 
father's house to her bower. Forthwith he felt a mighty 


Poetic Edda 

love-sickness. Skirnir was the name of Freyr's servant; 
Njorth bade him ask speech of Freyr. He said : 

1. "Go now, Skirnir! and seek to gain 

Speech from my son ; 
And answer to win, for whom the wise one 
Is mightily moved." 

Skirnir spake: 

2. "Ill words do I now await from thy son, 

If I seek to get speech with him, 
And answer to win, for whom the wise one 
Is mightily moved." 

Prose. Freyr: concerning his father, Njorth, and the race of 
the Wanes in general, cf. Voluspo, 21 and note. Snorri thus de- 
scribes Njorth's family: "Njorth begat two children in Noatun; 
the son was named Freyr, and the daughter Freyja; they were 
fair of aspect and mighty. Freyr is the noblest of the gods; he 
rules over rain and sunshine, and therewith the fruitfulness of 
the earth; it is well to call upon him for plenty and welfare, for 
he rules over wealth for mankind. Freyja is the noblest of the 
goddesses. When she rides to the fight, she has one-half of the 
slain, and Othin has half. When she goes on a journey, she 
drives her two cats, and sits in a cart. Love-songs please her 
well, and it is good to call on her in love-matters." Hl'tthskjolf: 
Othin's watch-tower; cf. Grimnismol, introductory prose. He 
said: both manuscripts have "Then Skathi said:" (Skathi was 
Njorth's wife), but Bugge's emendation, based on Snorri's ver- 
sion, is doubtless correct. 

I. My son: both manuscripts, and many editors, have "our 
son," which, of course, goes with the introduction of Skathi in 
the prose. As the stanza is clearly addressed to Skirnir, the change 
of pronouns seems justified. The same confusion occurs in stanza 
2, where Skirnir in the manuscripts is made ta-.speak of Freyr as 



Skirnir spake: 

3. "Speak prithee, Freyr, foremost of the gods, 

For now I fain would know; 
Why sittest thou here in the wide halls, 
Days long, my prince, alone?" 

Freyr spake: 

4. "How shall I tell thee, thou hero young. 

Of all my grief so great ? 
Though every day the elfbeam dawns. 
It lights my longing never." 

Skirnir spake: 

5. "Thy longings, methinks, are not so large 

That thou mayst not tell them to me; 
Since in days of yore we were young together. 
We two might each other trust." 

Freyr spake: 

6. "From Gymir's house I beheld go forth 

A maiden dear to me; 
Her arms glittered, and from their gleam 
Shone all the sea and sky. 

"your son" (plural). The plural pronoun in the original involves 
a metrical error, which is corrected by the emendation. 

4. Elfbeam: the sun, so called because its rays were fatal to 
elves and dwarfs; cf. Al<v'tssmol, 35. 

6. Gymir: a mountain-giant, husband of Aurbotha, and 
father of Gerth, fairest among women. This is all Snorri tells of 
him in his paraphrase of the story. 

7. Snorri's paraphrase of the poem is sufficiently close so that 
his addition of another sentence to Freyr's speech makes it prob- 


Poetic Edda 

"To me more dear than in da)'s of old 

Was ever maiden to man; 
But no one of gods or elves will grant 

That we both together should be." 

Skirnir spake: 
"Then give me the horse that goes through the 
And magic flickering flames; 
And the sword as well that fights of itself 
Against the giants grim." 

Freyr spake: 
"The horse will I give thee that goes through the 
And magic flickering flames, 
And the sword as well that will fight of itself 
If a worthy hero wields it." 

able that a stanza has dropped out between 7 and 8. This has 
been tentatively reconstructed, thus: "Hither to me shalt thou 
bring the maid, / And home shalt thou lead her here, / If her 
father wills it or wills it not, / And good reward shalt thou 

get." Finn Magnusen detected the probable omission of a stanza 
here as early as 1821. 

8. The sivord: Freyr's gift of his sword to Skirnir eventually 
proves fatal, for at the last battle, when Freyr is attacked by Beli, 
whom he kills bare-handed, and later when the fire-demon, Surt, 
slays him in turn, he is weaponless; cf. Voluspo, 53 and note. 
Against the giants grim: the condition of this line makes it seem 
like an error in copying, and it is possible that it should be iden- 
tical with the fourth line of the next stanza. 



Skirnir spake to the horse: 

10. "Dark is it without, and I deem it time 

To fare through the wild fells, 
(To fare through the giants' fastness;) 
We shall both come back, or us both together 
The terrible giant will take." 

Skirnir rode into Jotunheim to Gymir's house. There 
were fierce dogs bound before the gate of the fence which 
was around Gerth's hall. He rode to where a herdsman 
sat on a hill, and said : 

11. "Tell me, herdsman, sitting on the hill. 

And watching all the ways, 
How may I win a word with the maid 
Past the hounds of Gymir here ?" 

The herdsman spake: 

12. "Art thou doomed to die or already dead, 

Thou horseman that ridest hither? 
Barred from speech shalt thou ever be 
With Gymir's daughter good." 

Skirnir spake: 

13. "Boldness is better than plaints can be 

For him whose feet must fare ; 

10. Some editors reject line 3 as spurious. 

12. Line 2 is in neither nnianuscript, and no gap is indicated. 
I have followed Grundtvig's conjectural emendation. 

13. This stanza is almost exactly like many in the first part of 


Poetic Edda 

To a destined day has mine age been doomed, 
And my life's span thereto laid." 

Gerth spake: 

14. "What noise is that which now so loud 

I hear within our house? 
The ground shakes, and the home of Gymir 
Around me trembles too." 

The Serving-Maid spake: 

1 5. "One stands without who has leapt from his steed, 

And lets his horse loose to graze ;" 

Gerth spake: 
16. "Bid the man come in, and drink good mead 
Here within our hall ; 
Though this I fear, that there without 
My brother's slayer stands. 

the Hovamol, and may well have been a separate proverb. After 
this stanza the scene shifts to the interior of the house. 

15. No gap indicated in either manuscript. Bugge and Niedner 
have attempted emendations, while Hildebrand suggests that the 
last two lines of stanza 14 are spurious, 14, 1-2, and 15 thus 
forming a single stanza, which seems doubtful. 

16. Brother's slayer: perhaps the brother is Beli, slain by 
Freyr; the only other references are in Voluspo, 53, and in 
Snorri's paraphrase of the Skirnismol, which merely says that 
Freyr's gift of his sword to Skirnir "was the reason why he was 
weaponless when he met Beli, and he killed him bare-handed." 
Skirnir himself seems never to have killed anybody. 



17. "Art thou of the elves or the offspring of gods, 

Or of the wise Wanes? 
How camst thou alone through the leaping flame 
Thus to behold our home?" 

Skirnir spake: 

18. "I am not of the elves, nor the offspring of gods, 

Nor of the wise Wanes; 
Though I came alone through the leaping flame 
Thus to behold thy home. 

19. "Eleven apples, all of gold, 

Here will I give thee, Gerth, 
To buy thy troth that Freyr shall be 
Deemed to be dearest to you." 

Gerth spake: 

20. "I will not take at any man's wish 

These eleven apples ever; 
Nor shall Freyr and I one dwelling find 
So long as we two live." 

Skirnir spake: 

21. "Then do I bring thee the ring that was burned 

17. fFise Wanes: cf. Voluspo, 21 and note. 

18. The Arnamagnaan Codex omits this stanza. 

19. Apples: the apple was the symbol of fruitfulness, and also 
of eternal youth. According to Snorri, the goddess Ithun had 
charge of the apples which the gods ate whenever they felt them- 
selves growing old. 


Poetic Edda 

Of old with Othin's son ; 
From it do eight of like weight fall 
On every ninth night." 

Gerth spake: 

22. "The ring I wish not, though burned it was 

Of old with Othin's son ; 
In Gymir's home is no lack of gold 
In the wealth my father wields." 

Skirnir spake: 

23. "Seest thou, maiden, this keen, bright sword 

That I hold here in my hand? 
Thy head from thy neck shall I straightway hew, 
If thou wilt not do my will." 

Gerth spake: 

24. 'Tor no man's sake will I ever suflFer 

To be thus moved by might ; 
But gladly, methinks, will Gymir seek 
To fight if he finds thee here." 

Skirnir spake: 

25. "Seest thou, maiden, this keen, bright sword 

That I hold here in my hand ? 

21. Ring: the ring Draupnir ("Dropper") was made by the 
dwarfs for Othin, who laid it on Baldr's pyre when the latter's 
corpse was burned (cf. Voluspo, 32 and note, and Baldrs Drau- 
mar). Baldr, however, sent the ring back to Othin from hell. How 
Freyr obtained it is nowhere stated. Andvari's ring (Andvara- 
naut) had a similar power of creating gold ; cf. Reainsmol, prose 



Before its blade the old giant bends, — 
Thy father is doomed to die. 

26. "I strike thee, maid, with my magic staff, 

To tame thee to work my will; 
There shalt thou go where never again 
The sons of men shall see thee. 

27. "On the eagle's hill shalt thou ever sit. 

And gaze on the gates of Hel ; 
More loathsome to thee than the light-hued snake 
To men, shall thy meat become. 

28. 'Tearful to see, if thou comest forth, 

Hrimnir will stand and stare, 
(Men will marvel at thee;) 

after stanza 4 and note. Lines 3 and 4 of this stanza, and the first 
two of stanza 22, are missing in the Arnamagnaan Codex. 

25. The first two lines are abbreviated in both manuscripts. 

26. With this stanza, bribes and threats having failed, Skirnir 
begins a curse which, by the power of his magic staff, is to fall 
on Gerth if she refuses Freyr. 

27. Eagle's hill: the hill at the end of heaven, and conse- 
quently overlooking hell, where the giant Hraesvelg sits "in an 
eagle's guise," and makes the winds with his wings; cf. Vaf- 
thruthnismol, 37, also Voluspo, 50. The second line is faulty in 
both manuscripts ; Hildebrand's emendation corrects the error, 
but omits an effective touch ; the manuscript line may be rendered 
"And look and hanker for hell." The Arnamagnaan Codex breaks 
off with the fourth line of this stanza. 

28. Hrimnir: a frost-giant, mentioned elsewhere only in 
Hyndluljoth, 33. Line 3 is probably spurious. Watchman of the 
gods: Heimdall; cf. Voluspo, ^6. 


Poetic Edda 

More famed shalt thou grow than the watchman 
of the gods! 
Peer forth, then, from thy prison. 

29. "Rage and longing, fetters and wrath, 

Tears and torment are thine; 
Where thou sittest down my doom is on thee 
Of heavy heart 
And double dole. 

30. "In the giants* home shall vile things harm thee 

Each day with evil deeds ; 
Grief shalt thou get instead of gladness, 
And sorrow to suffer with tears. 

31. "With three-headed giants thou shalt dwell ever. 

Or never know a husband ; 
( Let longing grip thee, let wasting waste thee, — ) 

29. Three nouns of doubtful meaning, which I have rendered 
rage, longing, and heart respectively, make the precise force of 
this stanza obscure. Niedner and Sijmons mark the entire stanza 
as interpolated, and Jonsson rejects line 5. 

30. In Regius and in nearly all the editions the first two lines 
of this stanza are followed by lines 3-5 of stanza 35. I have 
followed Niedner, Sijmons, and Gering. The two words here 
translated vile things are obscure; Gering renders the phrase 
simply "Kobolde." 

31. The confusion noted as to the preceding stanza, and a 
metrical error in the third line, have led to various rearrange- 
ments and emendations; line 3 certainly looks like an interpola- 
tion. Three-headed giants: concerning giants with numerous 
heads, cf. Vafthruthnismol, 33, and Hymiskvitha, 8. 



Be like to the thistle that in the loft 
Was cast and there was crushed. 

32. "I go to the wood, and to the wet forest, 
To win a magic wand; 

I won a magic wand. 

S3. "Othin grows angry, angered is the best of the 
Freyr shall be thy foe, 
Most evil maid, who the magic wrath 
Of gods hast got for thyself. 

34. "Give heed, frost-rulers, hear it, giants, 
Sons of Suttung, 
And gods, ye too. 
How I forbid and how I ban 
The meeting of men with the maid, 
(The joy of men with the maid.) 

32. No gap indicated in the manuscript; Niedner makes the 
line here given as 4 the first half of line 3, and fills out the 
stanza thus: "with which I will tame j'ou, / Maid, to work my 
will." The whole stanza seems to be either interpolated or out of 
place; it would fit better after stanza 25. 

33. Jonsson marks this stanza as interpolated. The word 
translated most evil is another case of guesswork. 

34. Most editors reject line 3 as spurious, and some also reject 
line 6. Lines 2 and 3 may have been expanded out of a single line 
running approximately "Ye gods and Suttung's sons." Suttung: 
concerning this giant cf. Hovamol. 104 and note. 


Poetic Edda 

35. "Hrimgrimnir is he, the giant who shall have thee 

In the depth by the doors of Hel; 
To the frost-giants' halls each day shalt thou 
Crawling and craving in vain, 
(Crawling and having no hope.) 

36. "Base wretches there by the root of the tree 

Will hold for thee horns of filth ; 
A fairer drink shalt thou never find, 
Maid, to meet thy wish, 
(Maid, to meet my wish.) 

37. "I write thee a charm and three runes therewith. 

Longing and madness and lust; 
But what I have writ I may yet unwrite 
If I find a need therefor." 

35. Most editors combine lines 1-2 with stanza 36 (either 
with the first two lines thereof or the whole stanza), as lines 
3-5 stand in the manuscript after line 2 of stanza 30. Hrimgrim- 
nir ("The Frost-Shrouded") : a giant not elsewhere mentioned. 
Line 5, as a repetition of line 4, is probably a later addition. 

36. iFor the combination of this stanza with the preceding one, 
cf. note on stanza 35. The scribe clearly did not consider that the 
stanza began with line i, as the first word thereof in the manu- 
script does not begin with a capital letter and has no period 
before it. The first word of line 3, however, is so marked. Line 5 
may well be spurious. 

37. Again the scribe seems to have been uncertain as to the 
stanza divisions. This time the first line is preceded by a period, 
but begins with a small letter. Many editors have made line 2 



Gerth spake: 

38. "Find welcome rather, and with it take 

The frost-cup filled with mead; 
Though I did not believe that I should so love 
Ever one of the Wanes." 

Skirnir spake: 

39. "My tidings all must I truly learn 

Ere homeward hence I ride : 
How soon thou wilt with the mighty son 
Of Njorth a meeting make." 

Gerth spake: 

40. "Barri there is, which we both know well, 

A forest fair and still; 
And nine nights hence to the son of Njorth 
Will Gerth there grant delight." 

Then Skirnir rode home. Freyr stood without, and 
spoke to him, and asked for tidings: 

41. "Tell me, Skirnir, ere thou take off the saddle, 

Or farest forward a step : 
What hast thou done in the giants' dwelling 
To make glad thee or me ?" 

into two half-lines. A charm: literally, the rune Thurs (J)) ; the 
runic letters all had magic attributes; cf. Sigrdrifumol, 6-7 and 

40. Barri: "The Leafy." 


Poetic Edda 

Skirnir spake: 

42. "Barri there is, which we both know well, 

A forest fair and still ; 
And nine nights hence to the son of Njorth 
Will Gerth there grant delight." 

Freyr spake: 

43. "Long is one night, longer are two; 

How then shall I bear three? 
Often to me has a month seemed less 
Than now half a night of desire." 

42. Abbreviated to initial letters in the manuscript. 

43. The superscription is lacking in Regius. Snorri quotes this 
one stanza in his prose paraphrase, Gylfag'tnning, chapter 37. 
The two versions are substantially the same, except that Snorri 
makes the 6rst line read, "Long is one night, long is the 



The Poem of Harbarth 

Introductory Note 

The Harbarthsljoth is found complete in the Codex Regius, 
where it follows the Skirnismol, and from the fourth line of 
Stan a 19 to the end of the poem in the Arnamagnaan Codex, of 
which it occupies the first page and a half. 

The poem differs sharply from those which precede it in the 
Codex Regius, both in metrical form and in spirit. It is, indeed, 
the most nearly formless of all the Eddie poems. The normal 
metre is the Malahattr (cf. Introduction, where an example is 
given). The name of this verse-form means "in the manner of 
conversation," and the Harbarthsljoth's verse fully justifies the 
term. The Atli poems exemplify the conventional use of Mala- 
hattr, but in the Harbarthsljoth the form is used with extraor- 
dinary freedom, and other metrical forms are frequently employed. 
A few of the speeches of which the poem is composed cannot be 
twisted into any known Old Norse metre, and appear to be 
simply prose. 

How far this confusion is due to interpolations and faulty 
transmission of the original poem is uncertain. Finnur Jonsson 
has attempted a wholesale purification of the poem, but his arbi- 
trary condemnation of words, lines, and entire stanzas as spuri- 
ous is quite unjustified by any positive evidence. I have accepted 
Mogk's theory that the author was "a first-rate psychologist, but 
a poor poet," and have translated the poem as it stands in the 
manuscripts. I have preserved the metrical confusion of the 
original by keeping throughout so far as possible to the metres 
found in the poem ; if the rhythm of the translation is often hard 
to catch, the difficulty is no less with the original Norse. 

The poem is simply a contest of abuse, such as the early 
Norwegian and Icelander delighted in, the opposing figures 
being Thor and Othin, the latter appearing in the disguise of 
the ferryman Harbarth. Such billingsgate lent itself readily to 
changes, interpolations and omissions, and it is little wonder 
that the poem is chaotic. It consists mainly of boasting and of 
references, often luckily obscure, to disreputable events in the 
life of one or the other of the disputants. Some editors have 
sought to read a complex symbolism into it, particularly by rep- 

[ 121 ] 

Poetic Edda 

resenting it as a contest between the noble or warrior class 
(Othin) and the peasant (Thor). But it seems a pity to take such 
a vigorous piece of broad farce too seriously. 

Verse-form, substance, and certain linguistic peculiarities, 
notably the suffixed articles, point to a relatively late date 
(eleventh century) for the poem in its present form. Probably it 
had its origin in the early days, but its colloquial nature and its 
vulgarity made it readily susceptible to changes. 

Owing to the chaotic state of the text, and the fact that none 
of the editors or commentators have succeeded in improving it 
much, I have not in this case attempted to give all the important 
emendations and suggestions. The stanza-divisions are largely 

Thor was on his way back from a journey in the East, 
and came to a sound ; on the other side of the sound was a 
ferryman with a boat. Thor called out : 

I. "Who is the fellow yonder, on the farther shore 
of the sound?" 

Prose. Harbarth ("Gray-Beard") : Othin. On the nature of 
the prose notes found in the manuscripts, cf. Grimnismol, intro- 
duction. Thor: the journeys of the thunder-god were almost as 
numerous as those of Othin ; cf . Thrymskv'ttha and Hymis- 
kvitha. Like the Robin Hood of the British ballads, Thor was often 
temporarily worsted, but always managed to come out ahead 
in the end. His "Journey in the East" is presumably the famous 
episode, related in full by Snorri, in the course of which he en- 
countered the giant Skrymir, and in the house of Utgartha- 
Loki lifted the cat which turned out to be Mithgarthsorm. The 
Hymiskvitha relates a further incident of this journey. 



The ferryman spake: 

2. "What kind of a peasant is yon, that calls o'er 

the bay?" 

Thor spake: 

3. "Ferry me over the sound ; I will feed thee there- 

for in the morning; 
A basket I have on my back, and food therein, 

none better; 
At leisure I ate, ere the house I left. 
Of herrings and porridge, so plenty I had." 

The ferryman spake: 

4. "Of thy morning feats art thou proud, but the 

future thou knovi^est not w^holly ; 
Doleful thine home-coming is: thy mother, me- 
thinks, is dead." 

Thor spake: 

5. "Novi^ hast thou said what to each must seem 
The mightiest grief, that my mother is dead." 

2. The superscriptions to the speeches are badly confused in 
the manuscripts, but editors have agreed fairly well as to 
where they belong. 

3. From the fact that in Regius line 3 begins with a capital 
letter, it is possible that lines 3-4 constitute the ferryman's reply, 
with something lost before stanza 4. 

4. Thy mother: Jorth (Earth). 

5. Some editors assume a lacuna after this stanza. 

6. Three good divellings: this has been generally assumed to 
mean three separate establishments, but it may refer simply to 


Poetic Edda 

The ferryman spake: 

6. "Three good dwellings, methinks, thou hast not ; 
Barefoot thou standest, and wearest a beggar's 

Not even hose dost thou have." 

Thor spake: 

7. "Steer thou hither the boat ; the landing here shall 

I show thee ; 
But whose the craft that thou keepest on the 

The ferryman spake: 

8. "Hildolf is he who bade me have it, 

A hero wise ; his home is at Rathsey's sound. 
He bade me no robbers to steer, nor stealers of 

But worthy men, and those whom well do I know. 
Say now thy name, if over the sound thou wilt 


Thor spake: 

9. "My name indeed shall I tell, though in danger 

I am. 

the three parts of a single farm, the dwelling proper, the cattle- 
barn and the storehouse; i.e., Thor is not even a respectable 

8. Hildolf ("slaughtering wolf") : not elsewhere mentioned 
in the Edda. Rathsey ("Isle of Counsel") : likewise not mentioned 

9. In danger: Thor is "sekr," i.e., without the protection of 
any law, so long as he is in the territory of his enemies, the 



And all my race; I am Othin's son, 

Meili's brother, and Magni's father, 

The strong one of the gods; with Thor now 

speech canst thou get. 
And now would I know what name thou hast." 

The ferryman spake: 

10. "Harbarth am I, and seldom I hide my name." 

Thor spake: 

11. "Why shouldst thou hide thy name, if quarrel 

thou hast not ?" 

Harbarth spake: 

12. "And though I had a quarrel, from such as thou 

Yet none the less my life would I guard. 
Unless I be doomed to die." 

giants. Meili: a practically unknown son of Othin, mentioned 
here only in the Edda. Magni: son of Thor and the giantess 
Jarnsaxa ; after Thor's fight with Hrungnir (cf. stanza 14, note) 
Magni, though but three days old, was the only one of the gods 
strong enough to lift the dead giant's foot from Thor's neck. 
After rescuing his father, Magni said to him: "There would 
have been little trouble, father, had I but come sooner; I think 
I should have sent this giant to hell with my fist if I had met 
him first." Magni and his brother, Mothi, inherit Thor's hammer. 
12. This stanza is hopelessly confused as to form, but none 
of the editorial rearrangements have materially altered the 
meaning. Doomed to die: the word "feigr" occurs constantly in 
the Old Norse poems and sagas; the idea of an inevitable but 
unknown fate seems to have been practically universal through- 
out the pre-Christian period. On the concealment of names from 
enemies, cf. Fafnismol, prose after stanza i. 


Poetic Edda 

Thor spake: 

13. "Great trouble, methinks, would it be to come to 

To wade the waters across, and wet my middle; 
Weakling, well shall I pay thy mocking words, 
If across the sound I come." 

Harbarth spake: 

14. "Here shall I stand and await thee here ; 

Thou hast found since Hrungnir died no fiercer 

Thor spake: 

15. "Fain art thou to tell how with Hrungnir I 

The haughty giant, whose head of stone was 

And yet I felled him, and stretched him before me. 
What, Harbarth, didst thou the while?" 

13. This stanza, like the preceding one, is peculiarly chaotic 
in the manuscript, and has been variously emended. 

14. Hrungnir: this giant rashly wagered his head that his 
horse, Gullfaxi, was swifter than Othin's Sleipnir. In the race, 
which Hrungnir lost, he managed to dash uninvited into the 
home of the gods, where he became very drunk. Thor ejected 
him, and accepted his challenge to a duel. Hrungnir, terrified, 
had a helper made for him in the form of a dummy giant nine 
miles high and three miles broad. Hrungnir himself had a three- 
homed heart of stone and a head of stone; his shield was of 
stone and his weapon was a grindstone. But Thjalfi, Thor's 
servant, told him the god would attack him out of the ground, 
wherefore Hrungnir laid down his shield and stood on it. The 
hammer Mjollnir shattered both the grindstone and Hrungnir's 



Harbarth spake: 

1 6. "Five full winters with Fjolvar was I, 
And dwelt in the isle that is Algron called ; 
There could we fight, and fell the slain, 

Much could we seek, and maids could master." 

Thor spake: 

17. "How won ye success with your women?" 

Harbarth spake: 

18. "Lively women we had, if they wise for us were; 
Wise were the women we had, if they kind for 

us were; 
For ropes of sand they would seek to wind. 
And the bottom to dig from the deepest dale. 
Wiser than all in counsel I was, 
And there I slept by the sisters seven. 
And joy full great did I get from each. 
What, Thor, didst thou the while?" 

head, but part of the grindstone knocked Thor down, and the 
giant fell with his foot on Thor's neck (cf. note on stanza 9). 
Meanwhile Thjalfi dispatched the dummy giant without trouble. 

16. Fjolvar: not elsewhere mentioned in the poems; perhaps 
the father of the "seven sisters" referred to in stanza 18. Algron 
"The All-Green": not mentioned elsewhere in the Edda. 

17. Thor is always eager for stories of this sort; cf. stanzas 
31 and 33. 

i8. Lines 1-2 are obscure, but apparently Harbarth means 
that the women were wise to give in to him cheerfully, resistance 
to his power being as impossible as (lines 3-4) making ropes of 
sand or digging the bottoms out of the valleys. Nothing further is 
known of these unlucky "seven sisters." 


Poetic Edda 

Thor spake: 

19. "Thjazi I felled, the giant fierce, 
And I hurled the eyes of Alvaldi's son 
To the heavens hot above ; 

Of my deeds the mightiest marks are these. 

That all men since can see. 

What, Harbarth, didst thou the while?" 

Harbarth spake: 

20. "Much love-craft I wrought with them who ride 

by night, 
When I stole them by stealth from their husbands; 
A giant hard was Hlebarth, methinks: 
His wand he gave me as gift. 
And I stole his wits away." 

19. Thjazi: this giant, by a trick, secured possession of the 
goddess Ithun and her apples (of. Skirnismol, 19, note), and 
carried her off into Jotunheim. Loki, through whose fault she 
had been betrayed, was sent after her by the gods. He went in 
Freyja's "hawk's-dress" (of. Thrymskvitha, 3), turned Ithun 
into a nut, and flew back with her. Thjazi, in the shape of an 
eagle, gave chase. But the gods kindled a fire which burnt the 
eagle's wings, and then they killed him. Snorri's prose version 
does not attribute this feat particularly to Thor. Thjazi's daugh- 
ter was Skathi, whom the gods permitted to marry Njorth as a 
recompense for her father's death. Alvaldi: of him we know 
only that he was the father of Thjazi, Ithi and Gang, who 
divided his wealth, each taking a mouthful of gold. The name 
is variously spelled. It is not known which stars were called 
"Thjazi's Eyes." In the middle of line 4 begins the fragmentary 
version of the poem found in the Arnamagnaan Codex. 

20. Riders by night: witches, who were supposed to ride on 
vrolves in the dark. Nothing further is known of this adventure. 



Thor spake: 

21. "Thou didst repay good gifts with evil mind." 

Harbarth spake: 

22. "The oak must have what it shaves from another ; 
In such things each for himself. 

What, Thor, didst thou the while?" 

Thor spake: 

23. "Eastward I fared, of the giants I felled 
Their ill- working women who went to the moun- 

And large were the giants' throng if all were 

alive ; 
No men would there be in Mithgarth more. 
What, Harbarth, didst thou the while ?" 

Harbarth spake: 

24. "In Valland I was, and wars I raised, 
Princes I angered, and peace brought never; 
The noble who fall in the fight hath Othin, 
And Thor hath the race of the thralls." 

22. The oak, etc.: this proverb is found elsewhere (e.g., 
Grettissaga) in approximately the same words. Its force is much 
like our "to the victor belong the spoils." 

23. Thor killed no women of the giants' race on the "journey 
to the East" so fully described by Snorri, his great giant-killing 
adventure being the one narrated in the Thrymskvitha. 

24. Valland: this mythical place ("Land of Slaughter") is 
elsewhere mentioned, but not further characterised; cf. prose 
introduction to Vblundarkvitha, and Helreith Brynhildar, 2. On 
the bringing of slain heroes to Othin, cf. Voluspo, 31 and note, 


Poetic Edda 

Thor spake: 

25. "Unequal gifts of men wouldst thou give to the 

If might too much thou shouldst have." 

Harbarth spake: 

26. "Thor has might enough, but never a heart; 
For cowardly fear in a glove wast thou fain to 

And there forgot thou wast Thor; 
Afraid there thou wast, thy fear was such, 
To fart or sneeze lest Fjalar should hear." 

Thor spake: 

27. "Thou womanish Harbarth, to hell would I smite 

thee straight. 
Could mine arm reach over the sound." 

and, for a somewhat diflFerent version, Grimnismol, 14. Nowhere 
else is it indicated that Thor has an asylum for dead peasants. 
26. The reference here is to one of the most familiar episodes 
in Thor's eastward journey. He and his companions came to a 
house in the forest, and went in to spend the night. Being dis- 
turbed by an earthquake and a terrific noise, they all crawled 
into a smaller room opening from the main one. In the morning, 
however, they discovered that the earthquake had been oc- 
casioned by the giant Skrymir's lying down near them, and the 
noise by his snoring. The house in which they had taken refuge 
was his glove, the smaller room being the thumb. Skrymir was 
in fact Utgartha-Loki himself. That he is in this stanza called 
Fjalar (the name occurs also in Hovamol, 14) is probably due to 
a confusion of the names by which Utgartha-Loki went. Loki 
taunts Thor with this adventure in Lokasenna, 60 and 62, line 3 
of this stanza being perhaps interpolated from Lokasenna, 60, 4. 



Harbarth spake: 

28. "Wherefore reach over the sound, since strife we 

have none? 
What, Thor, didst thou do then?" 

Thor spake: 

29. "Eastw^ard I was, and the river I guarded well, 
Where the sons of Svarang sought me there ; 
Stones did they hurl ; small joy did they have of 

winning ; 
Before me there to ask for peace did they fare. 
What, Harbarth, didst thou the while?" 

Harbarth spake: 

30. "Eastward I was, and spake with a certain one, 
I played with the linen-white maid, and met her 

by stealth ; 
I gladdened the gold-decked one, and she granted 
me joy." 

Thor spake: 

31. "Full fair was thy woman-finding." 

29. The river: probably Ifing, which flows between the land 
of the gods and that of the giants; cf. Vafthruthnismol, 16. 
Sons of Svarang: presumably the giants; Svarang is not else- 
where mentioned in the poems, nor is there any other account of 
Thor's defense of the passage. 

30. Othin's adventures of this sort were too numerous to make 
it possible to identify this particular person. By stealth: so the 
Arnamagnaan Codex; Regius, followed by several editors, has 
"long meeting with her." 


Poetic Edda 

Harbarth spake: 

32. "Thy help did I need then, Thor, to hold the 

white maid fast." 

Thor spake: 

33. "Gladly, had I been there, my help to thee had 

been given." 

Harbarth spake: 

34. "I might have trusted thee then, didst thou not 

betray thy troth." 

Thor spake: 

35. "No heel-biter am I, in truth, like an old leather 

shoe in spring." 

Harbarth spake: 

36. "What, Thor, didst thou the while?" 

Thor spake: 

37. "In Hlesey the brides of the Berserkers slew I; 
Most evil they were, and all they betrayed." 

35. Heel-biter: this effective parallel to our "back-biter" is 
not found elsewhere in Old Norse. 

Zj. Hlesey: "the Island of the Sea-God" (Hler = ^gir), 
identified with the Danish island Laso, in the Kattegat. It appears 
again, much out of place, in Oddrunargratr, 28. Berserkers: 
originally men who could turn themselves into bears, hence the 
name, "bear-shirts"; cf. the werewolf or loupgarou. Later the 
name was applied to men who at times became seized with a 
madness for bloodshed; cf. Hyndluljoth, 23 and note. The 
women here mentioned are obviously of the earlier type. 



Harbarth spake: 

38. "Shame didst thou win, that women thou slewest, 


Thor spake: 

39. "She-wolves they were like, and women but little; 
My ship, which well I had trimmed, did they 

shake ; 
With clubs of iron they threatened, and Thjalfi 

they drove off. 
What, Harbarth, didst thou the while?" 

Harbarth spake: 
40. "In the host I was 
The banners to raise, 

that hither fared, 
and the spear to redden." 

Thor spake: 
41. "Wilt thou now say 
to bring us?" 

that hatred thou soughtest 

Harbarth spake: 
42. "A ring for thy hand 
As the judge decides 

shall make all right for thee, 
who sets us two at peace." 

39. Thjalfi: Thor's servant; cf. note on stanza 14. 

40. To what expedition this refers is unknown, but appar- 
ently Othin speaks of himself as allied to the foes of the gods. 

41. Hatred: so Regius; the other manuscript has, apparently, 

42. Just what Othin means, or why his words should so 
have enraged Thor, is not evident, though he may imply that 
Thor is open to bribery. Perhaps a passage has dropped out 
before stanza 43. 


Poetic Edda 

Thor spake: 

43. "Where foundest thou so foul and scornful a 

speech ? 
More foul a speech I never before have heard." 

Harbarth spake: 

44. "I learned it from men, the men so old, 
Who dwell in the hills of home." 

Thor spake: 

45. "A name full good to heaps of stones thou givest 
When thou callest them hills of home." 

Harbarth spake: 

46. "Of such things speak I so." 

Thor spake: 

47. "Ill for thee comes thy keenness of tongue, 
If the water I choose to wade ; 

Louder, I ween, than a wolf thou cryest, 
If a blow of my hammer thou hast." 

Harbarth spake: 

48. "Sif has a lover at home, and him shouldst thou 

More fitting it were on him to put forth thy 

44. Othin refers to the dead, from whom he seeks informa- 
tion through his magic power. 

48. Sif: Thor's wife, the lover being presumably Loki ; cf . 
Lokasenna, 54. 



Thor spake: 

49. "Thy tongue still makes thee say what seems most 

ill to me, 
Thou witless man ! Thou liest, I ween." 

Harbarth spake: 

50. "Truth do I speak, but slow on thy way thou art ; 
Far hadst thou gone if now in the boat thou hadst 


Thor spake: 

51. "Thou womanish Harbarth ! here hast thou held 

me too long." 

Harbarth spake: 

52. "I thought not ever that Asathor would be hin- 

By a ferryman thus from faring." 

Thor spake: 

53. "One counsel I bring thee now: row hither thy 

No more of scoffing; set Magni's father across." 

Harbarth spake: 

54. "From the sound go hence ; the passage thou hast 


52. Asathor: Thor goes by various names in the poems: e.g., 
Vingthor, Vingnir, Hlorrithi. Asathor means "Thor of the Gods." 

53. Magni: Thor's son; cf. stanza 9 and note. 


Poetic Edda 

Thor spake : 

55. "The way now show me, since thou takest me not 

o'er the water." 

Harbarth spake: 

56. "To refuse it is little, to fare it is long ; 

A while to the stock, and a while to the stone ; 
Then the road to thy left, till Verland thou reach- 

And there shall Fjorgyn her son Thor find, 
And the road of her children she shows him to 

Othin's realm." 

Thor spake: 

57. "May I come so far in a day?" 

Harbarth spake: 

58. "With toil and trouble perchance, 

While the sun still shines, or so I think." 

Thor spake: 

59. "Short now shall be our speech, for thou speakest 

in mockery only ; 

56. Line 2: the phrases mean simply "a long way" ; cf. "over 
stock and stone." Verland: the "Land of Men" to which Thor 
must come from the land of the giants. The Arnamagnaan Codex 
has "Valland" (cf. stanza 24 and note), but this is obviously an 
error. Fjorgyn: a feminine form of the same name, which be- 
longs to Othin (cf. Voluspo, 56 and note) ; here it evidently 
means Jorth (Earth), Thor's mother. The road: the rainbow 
bridge, Bifrost; cf. Grimnismol, 29 and note. 

58. Line 2: so Regius; the other manuscript has "ere sunrise." 



The passage thou gavest me not I shall pay thee 
if ever we meet." 

Harbarth spake: 
60. "Get hence where every evil thing shall have thee !" 

60. The Arnamagnaan Codex clearly indicates Harbarth as 
the speaker of this line, but Regius has no superscription, and 
begins the line with a small letter not preceded by a period, 
thereby assigning it to Thor. 



The Lay of Hymir 

Introductory Note 

The Hymiskvitha is found complete in both manuscripts; in 
Regius it follows the Harbarthsljoth, while in the Arnamag- 
naan Codex it comes after the Grimnismol. Snorri does not quote 
it, although he tells the main story involved. 

The poem is a distinctly inferior piece of work, obviously 
based on various narrative fragments, awkwardly pieced to- 
gether. Some critics, Jessen and Edzardi for instance, have main- 
tained that the compiler had before him three distinct poems, 
which he simply put together; others, like Finnur Jonsson and 
Mogk, think that the author made a new poem of his own on the 
basis of earlier poems, now lost. It seems probable that he took 
a lot of odds and ends of material concerning Thor, whether in 
prose or in verse, and worked them together in a perfunctory 
way, without much caring how well they fitted. His chief aim 
was probably to impress the credulous imaginations of hearers 
greedy for wonders. 

The poem is almost certainly one of the latest of those deal- 
ing with the gods, though Finnur Jonsson, in order to support his 
theory of a Norwegian origin, has to date it relatively early. 
If, as seems probable, it was produced in Iceland, the chances 
are that it was composed in the first half of the eleventh century. 
Jessen, rather recklessly, goes so far as to put it two hundred 
years later. In any case, it belongs to a period of literary de- 
cadence, — the great days of Eddie poetry would never have per- 
mitted the nine hundred headed person found in Hymir's home — 
and to one in which the usual forms of diction in mythological 
poetry had yielded somewhat to the verbal subtleties of skaldic 
verse. * 

While the skaldic poetry properly falls outside the limits of 
this book, it is necessary here to say a word about it. There is 
preserved, in the sagas and elsewhere, a very considerable body 
of lyric poetry, the authorship of each poem being nearly always 
definitely stated, whether correctly or otherwise. This type of 
poetry is marked by an extraordinary complexity of diction, 
with a peculiarly difficult vocabulary of its own. It was to ex- 
plain some of the "kennings" which composed this special 



vocabulary that Snorri wrote one of the sections of the Prose 
Edda. As an illustration, in a single stanza of one poem in the 
Egilssaga, a sword is called "the halo of the helnn," "the wound- 
hoe," "the blood-snake" (possibly; no one is sure what the 
compound word means) and "the ice of the girdle," while men 
appear in the same stanza as "Othin's ash-trees," and battle is 
spoken of as "the iron game." One of the eight lines has defied 
translation completely. 

Skaldic diction made relatively few inroads into the earlier 
Eddie poems, but in the Hymiskvitha these circumlocutions are 
fairly numerous. This sets the poem somewhat apart from the 
rest of the mythological collection. Only the vigor of the two 
main stories — Thor's expedition after Hymir's kettle and the 
fishing trip in which he caught Mithgarthsorm — saves it from 
complete mediocrity. 

I. Of old the gods made feast together, 

And drink they sought ere sated they were ; 
Twigs they shook, and blood they tried: 
Rich fare in i^^gir's hall they found. 

I. Tiviffs: Vigfusson comments at some length on "the rite 
practised in the heathen age of inquiring into the future by 
dipping bunches of chips or twigs into the blood (of sacrifices) 
and shaking them." But the two operations may have been 
separate, the twigs being simply "divining-rods" marked with 
runes. In either case, the gods were seeking information by 
magic as to where they could find plenty to drink, ^gir: a giant 
who is also the god of the sea; little is known of him outside 
of what is told here and in the introductory prose to the Loka- 
senna, though Snorri has a brief account of him, giving his home 
as Hlesey (Laso, cf. Harbarthsljoth, 37). Grimnismol, 45, has a 
reference to this same feast. 


Poetic Edda 

2. The mountain-dweller sat merry as boyhood, 
But soon like a blinded man he seemed ; 

The son of Ygg gazed in his eyes : 

'Tor the gods a feast shalt thou forthwith get." 

3. The word-wielder toil for the giant worked, 
And so revenge on the gods he sought ; 

He bade Sif's mate the kettle bring: 
"Therein for ye all much ale shall I brew." 

4. The far-famed ones could find it not, 
And the holy gods could get it nowhere ; 
Till in truthful wise did Tyr speak forth. 
And helpful counsel to Hlorrithi gave. 

5. "There dwells to the east of Elivagar 
Hymir the wise at the end of heaven ; 
A kettle my father fierce doth own, 
A mighty vessel a mile in depth." 

2. Mountain-diueller: the giant (^^gir). Line 2: the principal 
word in the original has defied interpretation, and any trans- 
lation of the line must be largely guesswork. Ygg: Othin; his 
son is Thor. Some editors assume a gap after this stanza. 

3. Word-'wielder: Thor. The giant: Mg\T. Sif: Thor's wife; 
cf. Harbarthsljoth, 48. The kettle: ^^gir's kettle is possibly the 
sea itself. 

4. Tyr: the god of battle; his two great achievements were 
thrusting his hand into the mouth of the wolf Fenrir so that the 
gods might bind him, whereby he lost his hand (cf. Foluspo, 39, 
note), and his fight with the hound Garm in the last battle, in 
which they kill each other. Hlorrithi: Thor. 

5. Elivagar ("Stormy Waves"): possibly the Milky Way; 



Thor spake: 

6. "May we win, dost thou think, this whirler of 

Tyr spake: 
"Aye, friend, we can, if cunning we are." 

7. Forward that day with speed they fared, 
From Asgarth came they to Egil's home ; 
The goats with horns bedecked he guarded ; 
Then they sped to the hall where Hymir dwelt. 

8. The youth found his grandam, that greatly he 


cf. Vafthruthnismol, 31, note. Hymir: this giant figures only in 
this episode. It is not clear why Tyr, who is elsewhere spoken 
of as a son of Othin, should here call Hymir his father. Finnur 
Jonsson, in an attempt to get round this difficulty, deliberately 
changed the word "father" to "grandfather," but this does not 
help greatly. 

6. Neither manuscript has any superscriptions, but most edi- 
tors have supplied them as above. From this point through stanza 
n the editors have varied considerably in grouping the lines into 
stanzas. The manuscripts indicate the third lines of stanzas 7, 8, 
9, and 10 as beginning stanzas, but this makes more complica- 
tions than the present arrangement. It is possible that, as Sijmons 
suggests, two lines have been lost after stanza 6. 

7. Egil: possibly, though by no means certainly, the father 
of Thor's servant, Thjalfi, for, according to Snorri, Thor's first 
stop on this journey was at the house of a peasant whose chil- 
dren, Thjalfi and Roskva, he took into his service; cf. stanza 
38, note. The Arnamagnaan Codex has "i^gir" instead of "Egil," 
but, aside from the fact that Thor had just left ^gir's house, the 
sea-god can hardly have been spoken of as a goat-herd. 

8. The youth: Tyr, whose extraordinary grandmother is 
Hymir's mother. We know nothing further of her, or of the other, 


Poetic Edda 

And full nine hundred heads she had ; 
But the other fair with gold came forth, 
And the bright-browed one brought beer to her 

9. "Kinsman of giants, beneath the kettle 
Will I set ye both, ye heroes bold ; 
For many a time my dear-loved mate 
To guests is wrathful and grim of mind." 

10. Late to his home the misshapen Hymir, 
The giant harsh, from his hunting came ; 
The icicles rattled as in he came. 

For the fellow's chin-forest frozen was. 

11. "Hail to thee, Hymir! good thoughts mayst thou 

Here has thy son to thine hall now come; 
(For him have we waited, his way was long;) 
And with him fares the foeman of Hroth, 
The friend of mankind, and Veur they call him. 

who is Hymir's wife and Tyr's mother. It may be guessed, how- 
ever, that she belonged rather to the race of the gods than to 
that of the giants. 

II. Two or three editors give this stanza a superscription 
("The concubine spake," "The daughter spake"). Line 3 is com- 
monly regarded as spurious. The foeman of Hroth: of course 
this means Thor, but nothing is known of any enemy of his by this 
name. Several editors have sought to make a single word mean- 
ing "the famous enemy" out of the phrase. Concerning Thor as 
the friend of man, particularly of the peasant class, cf. introduc- 
tion to Harbarthsljoth. Veur: another name, of uncertain mean- 
ing, for Thor. 



12. "See where under the gable they sit ! 
Behind the beam do they hide themselves." 
The beam at the glance of the giant broke, 
And the mighty pillar in pieces fell. 

13. Eight fell from the ledge, and one alone, 
The hard-hammered kettle, of all was whole ; 
Forth came they then, and his foes he sought, 
The giant old, and held with his eyes. 

14. Much sorrow his heart foretold when he saw 
The giantess' foeman come forth on the floor; 
Then of the steers did they bring in three; 
Their flesh to boil did the giant bid. 

15. By a head was each the shorter hewed, 
And the beasts to the fire straight they bore ; 
The husband of Sif , ere to sleep he went, 
Alone two oxen of Hymir's ate. 

16. To the comrade hoary of Hrungnir then 
Did Hlorrithi's meal full mighty seem; 
"Next time at eve we three must eat 
The food we have s the hunting's spoil." 

13. Eight: the giant's glance, besides breaking the beam, 
knocks down all the kettles with such violence that all but the 
one under which Thor and Tyr are hiding are broken. 

14. Hymir's wrath does not permit him to ignore the duties 
of a host to his guests, always strongly insisted on. 

15. Thor's appetite figures elsewhere; cf. Thrymskvitha, 24. 

16. The comrade of Hrungnir: Hymir, presumably simply 
because both are giants ; cf. Harbarthsljoth, 14 and note. 

[ 143 ] 

Poetic Edda 


Fain to row on the sea was Veur, he said, 
If the giant bold would give him bait. 

Hymir spake: 

18. "Go to the herd, if thou hast it in mind, 
Thou slayer of giants, thy bait to seek; 
For there thou soon mayst find, methinks. 
Bait from the oxen easy to get." 

19. Swift to the wood the hero went. 

Till before him an ox all black he found ; 
From the beast the slayer of giants broke 
The fortress high of his double horns. 

Hymir spake: 

20. "Thy works, methinks, are worse by far. 

17. The manuscripts indicate no lacuna, and many editors 
unite stanza 17 with lines i and 2 of i8. Sijmons and Gering 
assume a gap after these two lines, but it seems more probable 
that the missing passage, if any, belonged before them, supplying 
the connection with the previous stanza. 

18. The manuscripts have no superscription. Many editors 
combine lines 3 and 4 with lines i and 2 of stanza 19. In Snorri's 
extended paraphrase of the story, Hymir declines to go fishing 
with Thor on the ground that the latter is too small a person to 
be worth bothering about. "You would freeze," he says, "if you 
stayed out in mid-ocean as long as I generally do." Bait (line 
4) : the word literally means "chaff," hence any small bits; Hymir 
means that Thor should collect dung for bait. 

19. Many editors combine lines 3 and 4 with stanza 20. Fort- 
ress, etc.: the ox's head; cf. introductory note concerning the 
diction of this poem. Several editors assume a lacuna after stanza 
19, but this seems unnecessary. 



Thou steerer of ships, than when still thou sit- 

21. The lord of the goats bade the ape-begotten 
Farther to steer the steed of the rollers ; 
But the giant said that his will, forsooth, 
Longer to row was little enough. 

22. Two whales on his hook did the mighty Hymir 
Soon pull up on a single cast; 

In the stern the kinsman of Othin sat. 
And Veur with cunning his cast prepared. 

23. The warder of men, the worm's destroyer. 
Fixed on his hook the head of the ox; 
There gaped at the bait the foe of the gods. 
The girdler of all the earth beneath. 

20. The manuscripts have no superscription. Steerer of ships: 
probably merely a reference to Thor's intention to go fishing. 
The lacuna after stanza 20 is assumed by most editors. 

21. Lord of the goats: Thor, because of his goat-drawn char- 
iot. Ape-begotten: Hymir; the word "api," rare until relatively 
late times in its literal sense, is fairly common with the meaning 
of "fool." Giants were generally assumed to be stupid. Steed of 
the rollers: a ship, because boats were pulled up on shore by 
means of rollers. 

23. Warder of men: Thor; cf. stanza 11. Worm's destroyer: 
likewise Thor, who in the last battle slays, and is slain by, Mith- 
garthsorm; cf. Voluspo, 56. The foe of the gods: Mithgarths- 
orm, who lies in the sea, and surrounds the whole earth. 


Poetic Edda 

24. The venomous serpent swif dy up 

To the boat did Thor, the bold one, pull ; 
With his hammer the loathly hill of the hair 
Of the brother of Fenrir he smote from above. 

25. The monsters roared, and the rocks resounded, 
And all the earth so old was shaken ; 

Then sank the fish in the sea forthwith. 


Joyless as back they rowed was the giant ; 
Speechless did Hymir sit at the oars, 
With the rudder he sought a second wind. 

Hymir spake: 
27. "The half of our toil wilt thou have with me. 

24. Hill of the hair: head, — a thoroughly characteristic skal- 
dlc phrase. Brother of Fenrir: Mithgarthsorra was, like the 
wolf Fenrir and the goddess Hel, born to Loki and the giantess 
Angrbotha (cf. Voluspo, 39 and note), and I have translated 
this line accordingly; but the word used in the text has been 
guessed as meaning almost anything from "comrade" to "enemy." 

25. No gap is indicated in the manuscripts, but that a line or 
more has been lost is highly probable. In Snorri's version, Thor 
pulls so hard on the line that he drives both his feet through the 
flooring of the boat, and stands on bottom. When he pulls the 
serpent up, Hymir cuts the line with his bait-knife, which ex- 
plains the serpent's escape. Thor, in a rage, knocks Hymir over- 
board with his hammer, and then wades ashore. The lines of 
stanzas 25 and 26 have been variously grouped. 

26. No gap is indicated in the manuscripts, but line 2 begins 
with a small letter. A second ivind: another direction, i. e., he put 
about for the shore. 



And now make fast our goat of the flood ; 

Or home wilt thou bear the whales to the house, 

Across the gorge of the wooded glen ?" 

28. Hlorrithi stood and the stem he gripped, 
And the sea-horse with water awash he lifted ; 
Oars and bailer and all he bore 

With the surf-swine home to the giant's house. 

29. His might the giant again would match, 

For stubborn he was, with the strength of Thor; 
None truly strong, though stoutly he rowed, 
Would he call save one who could break the cup. 

30. Hlorrithi then, when the cup he held. 
Struck with the glass the pillars of stone ; 
As he sat the posts in pieces he shattered. 
Yet the glass to Hymir whole they brought. 

31. But the loved one fair of the giant found 
A counsel true, and told her thought : 

27. No superscription in the manuscripts. In its place Bugge 
supplies a line — "These words spake Hymir, the giant wise." 
The manuscripts reverse the order of lines 2 and 3, and in both 
of them line 4 stands after stanza 28. Goat of the flood: boat. 

28. Sea-horse: boat. Surf-stmne: the whales. 

29. Snorri says nothing of this episode of Hyrair's cup. The 
glass which cannot be broken appears in the folklore of various 

31. The loved one: Hymir's wife and Tyr's mother; cf. stanza 
8 and note. The idea that a giant's skull is harder than stone or 
anything else is characteristic of the later Norse folk-stories, and 

[ 147 ] 

Poetic Edda 

"Smite the skull of Hymir, heavy with food, 
For harder it is than ever was glass." 

32. The goats' mighty ruler then rose on his knee, 
And with all the strength of a god he struck ; 
Whole was the fellow's helmet-stem, 

But shattered the wine-cup rounded was. 

Hyfnir spake: 

33. "Fair is the treasure that from me is gone, 
Since now the cup on my knees lies shattered ;" 
So spake the giant: "No more can I say 

In days to be, 'Thou art brewed, mine ale.' 

34. "Enough shall it be if out ye can bring 
Forth from our house the kettle here." 
Tyr then twice to move it tried. 

But before him the kettle twice stood fast. 

35. The father of Mothi the rim seized firm. 
And before it stood on the floor below ; 
Up on his head Sif's husband raised it, 
And about his heels the handles clattered. 

in one of the so-called "mythical sagas" we find a giant actually 
named Hard-Skull. 

32. Helmet-stem: head. 

33. The manuscripts have no superscription. Line 4 in the 
manuscripts is somewhat obscure, and Bugge, followed by some 
editors, suggests a reading which may be rendered (beginning 
with the second half of line 3) : "No more can I speak / Ever 
again as I spoke of old." 

35. The father of Mothi and Sif's husband: Thor. 



36. Not long had they fared, ere backwards looked 
The son of Othin, once more to sec; 

From their caves in the east beheld he coming 
With Hymir the throng of the many-headed. 

37. He stood and cast from his back the kettle, 
And Mjollnir, the lover of murder, he wielded; 

So all the whales of the waste he slew. 

38. Not long had they fared ere one there lay 

Of Hlorrithi's goats half-dead on the ground ; 
In his leg the pole-horse there was lame ; 
The deed the evil Loki had done. 

36. The many-headed: The giants, although rarely desig- 
nated as a race in this way, sometimes had two or more heads; 
cf. stanza 8, Skirnismol, 31 and Vafthruthnismol, 33. Hymir's 
mother is, however, the only many-headed giant actually to ap- 
pear in the action of the poems, and it is safe to assume that the 
tradition as a whole belongs to the period of Norse folk-tales of 
the mdrchen order. 

37. No gap is indicated in the manuscripts. Some editors put 
the missing line as 2, some as 3, and some, leaving the present 
three lines together, add a fourth, and metrically incorrect, one 
from late paper manuscripts: "Who with Hymir followed 
after." Whales of the ivaste: giants. 

38. According to Snorri, when Thor set out with Loki (not 
Tyr) for the giants' land, he stopped first at a peasant's house 
(cf. stanza 7 and note). There he proceeded to cook his own 
goats for supper. The peasant's son, Thjalfi, eager to get at the 
marrow, split one of the leg-bones with his knife. The next morn- 
ing, when Thor was ready to proceed with his journey, he called 
the goats to life again, but one of them proved irretrievably 
lame. His wrath led the peasant to give him both his children as 

[ 149 ] 

Poetic Edda 

39. But ye all have heard, — for of them who have 
The tales of the gods, who better can tell? — 
What prize he won from the wilderness-dweller, 
Who both his children gave him to boot. 

40. The mighty one came to the council of gods, 
And the kettle he had that Hymir's was ; 
So gladly their ale the gods could drink 

In iEgir's hall at the autumn-time. 

servants (cf. stanza 39). Snorri does not Indicate that Loki was 
in any way to blame. 

39. This deliberate introduction of the story-teller is exceed- 
ingly rare in the older poetry. 

40. The translation of the last two lines is mostly guess- 
work, as the word rendered "gods" is uncertain, and the one 
rendered "at the autumn-time" is quite obscure. 



Loki's Wrangling 

Introductory Nots 

The Lokasenna is found only in Regius, where it follows the 
Hymiskvitha; Snorri quotes four lines of it, grouped together as 
a single stanza. 

The poem is one of the most vigorous of the entire collection, 
and seems to have been preserved in exceptionally good condi- 
tion. The exchange or contest of insults was dear to the Norse 
heart, and the Lokasen/ia consists chiefly of Loki's taunts to the 
assembled gods and goddesses, and their largely ineffectual at- 
tempts to talk back to him. The author was evidently well versed 
in mythological lore, and the poem is full of references to inci- 
dents not elsewhere recorded. As to its date and origin there is 
the usual dispute, but the latter part of the tenth century and 
Iceland seem the best guesses. 

The prose notes are long and of unusual interest. The intro- 
ductory one links the poem closely to the Hymiskvitha, much as 
the Reginsmol, Fafnismol and Sigrdrifumol are linked together; 
the others fill in the narrative gaps in the dialogue — ^very like 
stage directions, — and provide a conclusion by relating Loki's 
punishment, which, presumably, is here connected with the wrong 
incident. It is likely that often when the poem was recited during 
the two centuries or so before it was committed to writing, the 
speaker inserted some such explanatory comments, and the com- 
piler of the collection followed this example by adding such ex- 
planations as he thought necessary. The Lokasenna is certainly 
much older than the Hymiskvitha, the connection between them 
being purely one of subject-matter; and the twelfth-century com- 
piler evidently knew a good deal less about mythology than the 
author whose work he was annotating. 

^gir, who was also called Gymir, had prepared ale for 
the gods, after he had got the mighty kettle, as now has 
been told. To this feast came Othin and Frigg, his wife, 
Thor came not, as he was on a journey in the East. Sif, 


Poetic Edda 

Thor's wife, was there, and Bragi with Ithun, his wife. 
Tyr, who had but one hand, was there; the wolf Fenrir 
had bitten off his other hand when they had bound him. 
There were Njorth and Skathi his wife, Freyr and Freyja, 
and Vithar, the son of Othin. Loki was there, and Freyr's 

Prose. yEgir: the sea-god; Snorri gives Hler as another of 
his names, but he is not elsewhere called Gymir, which is the 
name of the giant, Gerth's father, in the Skirnismol. On ^gir 
cf. Grimnismol, 45, and Hymishvitha, i. Frigg: though Othin's 
wife is often mentioned, she plays only a minor part in the Eddie 
poems; cf. Voluspo, 34, Vafthruthnismol, i, and Grimnismol, in- 
troductory prose. Thor: the compiler is apparently a trifle con- 
fused as to Thor's movements; the "journey in the East" here 
mentioned cannot be the one described in the Hymiskvitha, nor 
yet the one narrated by Snorri, as Loki was with Thor through- 
out that expedition. He probably means no more than that Thor 
was off killing giants. Sif: concerning Thor's wife the chief 
incident is that Loki cut off her hair, and, at the command of the 
wrathful Thor, was compelled to have the dwarfs fashion her 
a new supply of hair out of gold; cf. Harbarthsljoth, 48. Bragi: 
the god of poetry; cf. Grimnismol, 44 and note. Ithun: the god- 
dess of youth; cf. note on Skirnismol, 19. Ithun is not mentioned 
by name in any other of the Eddie poems, but Snorri tells in 
detail how the giant Thjazi stole her and her apples, explaining 
the reference in Harbarthsljoth, 19 (q. v.). Tyr: the god of bat- 
tle; cf. Hymiskvitha, 4, and (concerning his dealings with the 
wolf Fenrir) Voluspo, 39, note. Njorth: the chief of the Wanes, 
and father of Freyr and Freyja; cf. (concerning the whole fam- 
ily) Skirnismol, introductory prose and note, also Voluspo, 21 
and note. Skathi: Njorth's wife was the daughter of the giant 
Thjazi; cf. Harbarthsljoth, 19, note, and Grimnismol, 11. Vithar: 
the silent god, the son of Othin who avenged his father by slaying 
the wolf Fenrir; cf. Voluspo, 54, Vafthruthnismol, 51, and Grim- 
nismol, 17. Loki: the mischief-making fire-god; in addition to the 
many references to his career in the Lokasenna, cf. particularly 
Voluspo, 32 and 35, and notes. Byggvir and Bey la: not men- 
tioned elsewhere in the poems; Freyr's conspicuous servant is 
Skirnir, hero of the Skirnismol. Fimafeng ("The Swift Handler") 



servants Byggvir and Beyla. Many were there of the gods 
and elves. 

i^gir had two serving-men, Fimafeng and Eldir. Glit- 
tering gold they had in place of firelight ; the ale came in 
of itself; and great was the peace. The guests praised 
much the ability of i^gir's serving-men. Loki might not 
endure that, and he slew Fimafeng. Then the gods shook 
their shields and howled at Loki and drove him away to 
the forest, and thereafter set to drinking again. Loki 
turned back, and outside he met Eldir. Loki spoke to him : 

1. "Speak now, Eldir, for not one step 

Farther shalt thou fare; 
What ale-talk here do they have within, 
The sons of the glorious gods?" 

Eldir spake : 

2. "Of their weapons they talk, and their might in 

The sons of the glorious gods ; 
From the gods and elves who are gathered here 
No friend in words shalt thou find." 

Loki spake: 

3. "In shall I go into i^gir's hall, 

For the feast I fain would see; 

and Eldir ("The Man of the Fire") : mentioned only in connec- 
tion with this incident. Glittering gold: ^gir's use of gold to 
light his hall, which was often thought of as under the sea, was 
responsible for the phrase "flame of the flood," and sundry kin- 
dred phrases, meaning "gold." 

[ 153 ] 

Poetic Edda 

Bale and hatred I bring to the gods, 
And their mead with venom I mix." 

Eldir spake : 

4. "If in thou goest to iiEgir's hall, 

And fain the feast wouldst see, 
And with slander and spite wouldst sprinkle the 
Think well lest they wipe it on thee," 

Loki spake: 

5. "Bethink thee, Eldir, if thou and I 

Shall strive with spiteful speech ; 
Richer I grow in ready words 
If thou speakest too much to me." 

Then Loki went into the hall, but when they who were 
there saw who had entered, they were all silent. 

Loki spake: 

6. "Thirsty I come into this thine hall, 

I, Lopt, from a journey long. 
To ask of the gods that one should give 
Fair mead for a drink to me. 

7. "Why sit ye silent, swollen with pride, 

Ye gods, and no answer give ? 

6. Lopt: like Lothur (cf. Voluspo, 18) another name for Loki; 
cf. Hyndluljoth, 43, and Svipdagsmol, 42. 

7. In the manuscript this stanza begins with a small letter, 
and Heinzel unites it with stanza 6. 



At your feast a place and a seat prepare me, 
Or bid me forth to fare." 

Braffi spake: 

8. "A place and a seat will the gods prepare 

No more in their midst for thee ; 
For the gods know well what men they wish 
To find at their mighty feasts," 

Loki spake: 

9. "Remember, Othin, in olden days 

That we both our blood have mixed ; 
Then didst thou promise no ale to pour, 
Unless it were brought for us both." 

Othin spake: 
10. "Stand forth then, Vithar, and let the wolf's 

Find a seat at our feast ; 

8. Braffi: cf. note on introductory prose. Why Loki taunts him 
with cowardice (stanzas n-13-15) is not clear, for poetry, of 
which Bragi was the patron, was generally associated in the 
Norse mind with peculiar valor, and most of the skaldic poets 
were likewise noted fighters. 

9. There exists no account of any incident in which Othin and 
Loki thus swore blood-brotherhood, but they were so often allied 
in enterprises that the idea is wholly reasonable. The common 
process of "mingling blood" was carried out quite literally, and 
the promise of which Loki speaks is characteristic of those which, 
in the sagas, often accompanied the ceremony; cf. Brot af Sigur- 
tharkvithu, 18 and note. 

10. In stanzas 10-31 the manuscript has nothing to indicate the 
identity of the several speakers, but these are uniformly clear 


Poetic Edda 

Lest evil should Loki speak aloud 
Here within ^gir's hall." 

Then Vithar arose and poured drink for Loki ; but be- 
fore he drank he spoke to the gods : 

11. "Hail to you, gods! ye goddesses, hail! 

Hail to the holy throng! 
Save for the god vi^ho yonder sits, 
Bragi there on the bench." 

Bragi spake: 

12. "A horse and a sword from my hoard will I give, 

And a ring gives Bragi to boot, 
That hatred thou makst not among the gods ; 
So rouse not the great ones to wrath." 

Loki spake: 

13. "In horses and rings thou shalt never be rich, 

Bragi, but both shalt thou lack; 
Of the gods and elves here together met 
Least brave in battle art thou, 
(And shyest thou art of the shot.)" 

Bragi spake: 

14. "Now were I without as I am within, 

enough through the context. Vithar: cf. note on introductory 
prose. The ivolf's father: Loki ; cf. Voluspo, 39 and note. 

13. Sijmons makes one line of lines 4-5 by cutting out a part 
of each; Finnur Jonsson rejects 5 as spurious. 

14. The text of line 4 is somewhat obscure, and has been 



And here in i^gir's hall, 
Thine head would I bear in mine hands away, 
And pay thee the price of thy lies." 

Loki spake: 

15. "In thy seat art thou bold, not so are thy deeds, 

Bragi, adorner of benches! 
Go out and fight if angered thou feelest. 
No hero such forethought has." 

Ithun spake: 

16. "Well, prithee, Bragi, his kinship weigh. 

Since chosen as wish-son he was ; 
And speak not to Loki such words of spite 
Here within iEgir's hall." 

Loki spake: 

17. "Be silent, Ithun ! thou art, I say. 

variously emended, one often adopted suggestion making the 
line read, "Little is that for thy lies." 

15. Adorner of benches: this epithet presumably implies that 
Bragi is not only slothful, but also effeminate, for a very similar 
word, "pride of the benches," means a bride. 

16. Ithun: Bragi's wife; cf. note on introductory prose. The 
goddesses who, finding that their husbands are getting the worst 
of it, take up the cudgels with Loki, all find themselves con- 
fronted with undeniable facts in their own careers; cf. stanzas 
26 (Frigg), 52 (Skathi) and 54 (Sif). Gefjun and Freyja are 
silenced in similar fashion. fVish-son: adopted son; Loki was the 
son of the giant Farbauti and the giantess Laufey, and hence was 
not of the race of the gods, but had been virtually adopted by 
Othin, who subsequently had good reason to regret it. 


Poetic Edda 

Of women most lustful in love, 
Since thou thy washed-bright arms didst wind 
About thy brother's slayer." 

Ithun spake: 

1 8. "To Loki I speak not with spiteful words 

Here within iEgir's hall ; 
And Bragi I calm, who is hot with beer, 
For I wish not that fierce they should fight." 

Gefjun spake: 

19. "Why, ye gods twain, with bitter tongues 

Raise hate among us here? 
Loki is famed for his mockery foul. 
And the dwellers in heaven he hates." 

Loki spake : 

20. "Be silent, Gefjun! for now shall I say 

Who led thee to evil life ; 
The boy so fair gave a necklace bright, 
And about him thy leg was laid." 

17. We do not even know who Ithun's brother was, much less 
who slew him. 

19. Gefjun: a goddess, not elsewhere mentioned in the poems, 
who, according to Snorri, was served by the women who died 
maidens. Beyond this nothing is known of her. Lines 3-4 in the 
manuscript are puzzling, and have been freely emended. 

20. Nothing is known of the incident here mentioned. There is 
a good deal of confusion as to various of the gods and goddesses, 
and it has been suggested that Gefjun is really Frigg under an- 
other name, with a little of Freyja — whose attributes were fre- 
quently confused with Frigg' s — thrown in. Certainly Othin's 



Othin spake: 

21. "Mad art thou, Loki, and little of wit, 

The wrath of Gefjun to rouse ; 
For the fate that is set for all she sees, 
Even as I, methinks." 

Loki spake: 

22. "Be silent, Othin! not justly thou settest 

The fate of the fight among men ; 
Oft gavst thou to him who deserved not the gift, 
To the baser, the battle's prize." 

Othin spake: 

23. "Though I gave to him who deserved not the gift, 

To the baser, the battle's prize ; 
Winters eight wast thou under the earth, 
Milking the cows as a maid, 
(Ay, and babes didst thou bear; 
Unmanly thy soul must seem.)" 

answer (stanza 21, lines 3-4) fits Frigg perfectly, for she shared 
his knowledge of the future, whereas it has no relation to any- 
thing known of Gefjun. As for the necklace (line 3), it may be 
the Brisings' necklace, which appears in the Thrymskvitha as 
Freyja's, but which, in some mythological writings, is assigned 
to Frigg. 

21. Snorri quotes line i ; cf. note on stanza 29. 

23. There is no other reference to Loki's having spent eight 
years underground, or to his cow-milking. On one occasion, 
however, he did bear offspring. A giant had undertaken to build 
the gods a fortress, his reward being Freyja and the sun and 
moon, provided the work was done by a given time. His sole 
helper was his horse, Svathilfari. The work being nearly done, 
and the gods fearing to lose Freyja and the sun and moon, Loki 


Poetic Edda 

Loki spake : 

24. "They say that with spells in Samsey once 

Like witches with charms didst thou work; 
And in witch's guise among men didst thou go ; 
Unmanly thy soul must seem." 

Frigg spake: 

25. "Of the deeds ye two of old have done 

Ye should make no speech among men ; 
Whate'er ye have done in days gone by, 
Old tales should ne'er be told." 

Loki spake: 

26. "Be silent, Frigg! thou art Fjorgyn's wife, 

But ever lustful in love; 
For Vili and Ve, thou wife of Vithrir, 
Both in thy bosom have lain." 

turned himself into a mare, and so effectually distracted Svathil- 
fari from his task that shortly afterwards Loki gave birth to 
Othin's eight-legged horse, Sleipnir. In such contests of abuse a 
man was not infrequently taunted with having borne children; 
of. Helgakvitha Hundingsbana I, 39-45. One or two of the last 
three lines may be spurious. 

24. Samsey: perhaps the Danish island of Samso. Othin was 
the god of magic, but there is no other reference to his ever 
having disguised himself as a witch. 

25. Frigg: Othin's wife; of. note to introductory prose. 

26. Fjorgyn: Othin; cf. Foluspo, 56 and note. Vili and Ve: 
Othin's brothers, who appear merely as, with Othin, the sons of 
Bur and Bestla; cf. Voluspo, 4. The Ynglingasaga says that, 
during one of Othin's protracted absences, his two brothers took 
Frigg as their mistress. Vithrir: another name for Othin. 

[ 160 ] 


Frigg spake: 

27. "If a son like Baldr were by me now, 

Here within ^gir's hall, 
From the sons of the gods thou shouldst go not 
Till thy fierceness in fight were tried." 

Loki spake: 

28. "Thou wilt then, Yugg, that further I tell 

Of the ill that now I know ; 
Mine is the blame that Baldr no more 
Thou seest ride home to the hall." 

Freyja spake: 

29. "Mad art thou, Loki, that known thou makest 

The wrong and shame thou hast wrought; 
The fate of all does Frigg know well, 
Though herself she says it not." 

Loki spake: 

30. "Be silent, Freyja ! for fully I know thee, 

Sinless thou art not thyself; 

27. On the death of Baldr, slain through Loki's cunning by 
the blind Hoth, cf. Voluspo, 32 and note. 

29. Freyja: daughter of Njorth and sister of Freyr; cf. note 
on introductory prose. Snorri, in speaking of Frigg's knowledge 
of the future, makes a stanza out of Lokasenna, 21, i; 47, 2; 29, 
3-4, thus: "Mad art thou, Loki, and little of wit, / Why, 
Loki, leavst thou this not? / The fate of all does Frigg knoTf 
well, / Though herself she says it not." 

30. According to Snorri, Freyja was a model of fidelity to 
her husband, 0th. 


Poetic Edda 

Of the gods and elves who are gathered here, 
Each one as thy lover has lain." 

Freyja spake: 

31. "False is thy tongue, and soon shalt thou find 

That it sings thee an evil song ; 
The gods are wroth, and the goddesses all. 
And in grief shalt thou homeward go." 

Loki spake: 

32. "Be silent, Freyja! thou foulest witch, 

And steeped full sore in sin ; 
In the arms of thy brother the bright gods caught 
When Freyja her wind set free." 

Njorth spake: 

33. "Small ill does it work though a woman may have 

A lord or a lover or both ; 
But a wonder it is that this womanish god 
Comes hither, though babes he has borne." 

32. Before each of stanzas 32-42 the manuscript indicates the 
speaker, through the initial letter of the name written in the 
margin. Thy brother: Freyr; there is no other indication that 
such a relation existed between these two, but they themselves 
were the product of such a union; cf. stanza 36 and note. 

33. Njorth: father of Freyr and Freyja, and given by the 
Wanes as a hostage, in exchange for Honir, at the close of the 
first war; cf. Voluspo, 21 and note, also Skirnismol, introductory 
prose and note. Babes: cf. stanza 23 and note. Bugge suggests 
that this clause may have been a late insertion. 



Loki spake: 

34. "Be silent, Njorth; thou wast eastward sent, 

To the gods as a hostage given; 
And the daughters of Hymir their privy had 
When use did they make of thy mouth." 

Njorth spake: 

35. "Great was my gain, though long was I gone, 

To the gods as a hostage given; 
The son did I have whom no man hates. 
And foremost of gods is found." 

Loki spake: 

36. "Give heed now, Njorth, nor boast too high, 

No longer I hold it hid ; 
With thy sister hadst thou so fair a son. 
Thus hadst thou no worse a hope." 

Tyr spake : 

37. "Of the heroes brave is Freyr the best 

Here in the home of the gods ; 

34. Daughters of Hymir: we have no clue to who these were, 
though Hymir is doubtless the frost-giant of the Hymiskvitha 
(q.v.). Loki's point is that Njorth is not a god, but the product 
of an inferior race (the Wanes). 

35. The son: Freyr. 

36. Thy sister: the Ynglingasaga supports this story of Njorth's 
having had two children by his sister before he came among the 
gods. Snorri, on the other hand, specifically says that Freyr and 
Freyja were born after Njorth came to the gods. 

37. Tyr: the god of battle; cf. notes on Hymiskvitha, 4, and 
Voluspo, 39. Freyr; concerning his noble qualities cf. Skirnismol, 
introductory prose and note. 


Poetic Edda 

He harms not maids nor the wives of men, 
And the bound from their fetters he frees." 

Loki spake: 

38. "Be silent, Tyr! for between two men 

Friendship thou ne'er couldst fashion ; 
Fain would I tell how Fenrir once 
Thy right hand rent from thee." 

Tyr spake : 

39. "My hand do I lack, but Hrothvitnir thou. 

And the loss brings longing to both ; 
111 fares the wolf who shall ever await 
In fetters the fall of the gods." 

Loki spake: 

40. "Be silent, Tyr! for a son with me 

Thy wife once chanced to win ; 
Not a penny, methinks, wast thou paid for the 
Nor wast righted an inch, poor wretch." 

Freyr spake: 

41. "By the mouth of the river the wolf remains 

38. Snorri mentions Tyr's incompetence as a peacemaker. 
Fenrir: the wolf, Loki's son; cf. Voluspo, 39. 

39. Hrothvitnir ("The Mighty Wolf") : Fenrir, who awaits 
in chains the final battle and death at the hands of Vithar. The 
manuscript has a metrical error in line 3, which has led to vari- 
ous emendations, all with much the same meaning. 

40. Thy nvife: there is no other reference to Tyr's wife, nor 
do we know who was the son in question. 



Till the gods to destruction go ; 
Thou too shalt soon, if thy tongue is not stilled, 
Be fettered, thou forger of ill." 

Loki spake: 

42. "The daughter of Gymir with gold didst thou 

And sold thy sword to boot ; 
But when Muspell's sons through Myrkwood 

Thou shalt weaponless wait, poor wretch." 

Byggvir spake: 

43. "Had I birth so famous as Ingunar-Freyr, 

And sat in so lofty a seat. 

41. The mouth of the river: according to Snorri, the chained 
Fenrir "roars horribly, and the slaver runs from his mouth, and 
makes the river called Vam; he lies there till the doom of the 
gods." Freyr's threat is actually carried out; cf. concluding prose. 

42. The daughter of Gymir: Gerth, heroine of the Skirnismol, 
which gives the details of Freyr's loss of his sword. Muspell's 
sons: the name Muspell is not used elsewhere in the poems; 
Snorri uses it frequently, but only in this same phrase, "Muspell's 
sons." They are the dwellers in the fire-world, Muspellsheim, led 
by Surt against the gods in the last battle; cf. Voluspo, 47 and 52 
and notes. Myrkwood: here the dark forest bounding the fire- 
world; in the Atlakvitha (stanza 3) the name is used of an- 
other boundary forest. 

43. Byggvir: one of Freyr's two servants; cf. introductory 
prose. Ingunar-Freyr: the name is not used elsewhere in the 
poems, or by Snorri ; it may be the genitive of a woman's name, 
Ingun, the unknown sister of Njorth who was Freyr's mother 
(cf. stanza 36), or a corruption of the name Ingw, used for Freyr 
(Fro) in old German mythology. 


Poetic Edda 

I would crush to marrow this croaker of ill, 
And beat all his body to bits." 

Loki spake: 
44. "What little creature goes crawling there, 
Snuffling and snapping about ? 
At Freyr's ears ever wilt thou be found, 
Or muttering hard at the mill." 

Byggvir spake : 
45- "Byggvir my name, and nimble am I, 
As gods and men do grant; 
And here am I proud that the children of Hropt 
Together all drink ale." 

Loki spake: 

46. "Be silent, Byggvir! thou never couldst set 

Their shares of the meat for men ; 
Hid in straw on the floor, they found thee not 
When heroes were fain to fight." 

Heimdall spake: 

47. "Drunk art thou, Loki, and mad are thy deeds. 

Why, Loki, leavst thou this not? 

44.. Beginning with this stanza, the names of the speakers are 
lacking in the manuscript. The mill: i.e., at slaves' tasks. 

45. Nothing further is known of either Byggvir's swiftness or 
his cowardice. Hropt: Othin. 

47. Heimdall: besides being the watchman of the gods (cf. 
Voluspo, 27), he appears also as the god of light (cf. Thryms- 
kvitha, 14), and possibly also as a complex cultural deity in the 



For drink beyond measure will lead all men 
No thought of their tongues to take." 

Loki spake: 

48. "Be silent, Heimdall ! in days long since 

Was an evil fate for thee fixed ; 
With back held stiff must thou ever stand, 
As warder of heaven to watch." 

Skathi spake: 

49. "Light art thou, Loki, but longer thou mayst not 

In freedom flourish thy tail ; 
On the rocks the gods bind thee with bowels torn 
Forth from thy frost-cold son." 

Loki spake: 

50. "Though on rocks the gods bind me with bowels 

Forth from my frost-cold son, 

Rigsthula. He was a son of Othin, born of nine sisters; cf. 
Hyndluljoth, 37-40. In the last battle he and Loki slay one an- 
other. Line 2 is quoted by Snorri; cf. stanza 29, note. 

49. Skathi: the wife of Njorth, and daughter of the giant 
Thjazi, concerning whose death cf. Harbarthsljoth, 19, note. 
Bowels, etc. : according to the prose note at the end of the Loka- 
senna, the gods bound Loki with the bowels of his son Vali, and 
changed his other son, Narfi, into a wolf. Snorri turns the story 
about, Vali being the wolf, who tears his brother to pieces, the 
gods then using Narfi's intestines to bind Loki. Narfi — and pre- 
sumably Vali — were the sons of Loki and his wife, Sigyn. They 
appear only in this episode, though Narfi (or Nari) is named by 
Snorri in his list of Loki's children. Cf. concluding prose, and 


Poetic Edda 

I was first and last at the deadly fight 
There where Thjazi we caught." 

Skat hi spake: 

51. "Wert thou first and last at the deadly fight 

There where Thjazi was caught, 
From my dwellings and fields shall ever come 
A counsel cold for thee." 

Loki spake: 

52. "More lightly thou spakest with Laufey's son, 

When thou badst me come to thy bed ; 
Such things must be known if now we two 
Shall seek our sins to tell." 

Then Sif came forward and poured mead for Loki in a 
crystal cup, and said : 

53. "Hail to thee, Loki, and take thou here 

The crystal cup of old mead ; 
For me at least, alone of the gods. 
Blameless thou knowest to be." 

52. Laufey's son: Loki; not much is known of his parents be- 
yond their names. His father was the giant Farbauti, his mother 
Laufey, sometimes called Nal. There is an elaborate but far- 
fetched hypothesis explaining these three on the basis of a 
nature-myth. There is no other reference to such a relation be- 
tween Skathi and Loki as he here suggests. 

53. Sif: Thor's wife; cf. Harbarthsljoth, 48, where her infi- 
delity is again mentioned. The manuscript omits the proper name 


He took the horn, and drank therefrom : 

54. "Alone thou wert if truly thou wouldst 

All men so shyly shun ; 
' But one do I know full well, methinks. 
Who had thee from Hlorrithi's arms, — 
(Loki the crafty in lies,)" 

Bey la spake: 

55. "The mountains shake, and surely I think 

From his home comes Hlorrithi now; 
He will silence the man who is slandering here 
Together both gods and men." 

Loki spake: 

56. "Be silent, Beyla! thou art Byggvir's wife, 

And deep art thou steeped in sin; 
A greater shame to the gods came ne'er, 
Befouled thou art with thy filth." 

Then came Thor forth, and spake : 

57. "Unmanly one, cease, or the mighty hammer, 

MjoUnir, shall close thy mouth; 

from the preceding prose, and a few editors have, obviously in 
error, attributed the speech to Beyla. 

54. Hlorrithi: Thor. Line 5 is probably spurious. 

55. Beyla: Freyr's servant, wife of Byggvir; cf. introductory 
prose and note. 

57. MjoUnir: concerning Thor's famous hammer see particu- 
larly Thrymsk<vitha, i and note. Shoulder-cliff: head ; concerning 


Poetic Edda 

Thy shoulder-cliff shall I cleave from thy neck, 
And so shall thy life be lost." 

Loki spake : 

58. "Lo, in has come the son of Earth : 

Why threaten so loudly, Thor ? 
Less fierce thou shalt go to fight with the wolf 
When he swallows Sigfather up." 

Thor spake: 

59. "Unmanly one, cease, or the mighty hammer, 

Mjollnir, shall close thy mouth; 
I shall hurl thee up and out in the East, 
Where men shall see thee no more." 

Loki spake: 

60. "That thou hast fared on the East-road forth 

To men shouldst thou say no more; 

the use of such diction in the Edda, of. introductory note to 
Hymiskvitha. The manuscript indicates line 3 as the beginning 
of a stanza, but this is apparently a scribal error. 

58. Son of Earth: Thor, son of Othin and Jorth (Earth). The 
manuscript omits the word "son," but all editors have agreed in 
supplying it. The ivolf: Fenrir, Loki's son, who slays Othin 
{Si fff other: "Father of Victory") in the final battle. Thor, accord- 
ing to Snorri and to the Voluspo, 56, fights with Mithgarthsorm 
and not with Fenrir, who is killed by Vithar. 

59. Lines 1-2 are abbreviated in the manuscript, as also in 
stanzas 61 and 63. 

60. Loki's taunt that Thor hid in the thumb of Skrymir's 
glove is similar to that of Othin, Harbarthsljoih, 26, in the note 
to which the story is outlined. Line 4 is identical with line 3 of 
Harbarthsljoih, 26. 



In the thumb of a glove didst thou hide, thou 
great one, 
And there forgot thou wast Thor." 

Thor spake: 

61. "Unmanly one, cease, or the mighty hammer, 

Mjollnir, shall close thy mouth ; 
My right hand shall smite thee with Hrungnir's 
Till all thy bones are broken." 

Loki spake: 

62. "A long time still do I think to live, 

Though thou threatenest thus with thy hammer ; 
Rough seemed the straps of Skrymir's wallet, 
When thy meat thou mightest not get, 
(And faint from hunger didst feel.)" 

Thor spake: 

63. "Unmanly one, cease, or the mighty hammer, 

Mjollnir, shall close thy mouth ; 

6i. Hrungnir's slayer: the hammer; the story of how Thor 
slew this stone-headed giant is indicated in Harbarthsljoth, 14-15, 
and outlined in the note to stanza 14 of that poem. 

62. On the day following the adventure of the glove, Thor, 
Loki and Thor's servants proceed on their way in company with 
Skrymir, who puts all their food in his wallet. At evening 
Skryrair goes to sleep, and Thor tries to get at the food, but 
cannot loosen the straps of the wallet. In a rage he smites 
Skrymir three times on the head with his hammer, but the giant 
— who, it subsequently appears, deftly dodges the blows — ^is 
totally undisturbed. Line 5 may well be spurious. 


Poetic Edda 

The slayer of Hrungnir shall send thee to hell, 
And down to the gate of death." 

Loki spake: 

64. "I have said to the gods and the sons of the gods 

The things that whetted my thoughts ; 
But before thee alone do I now go forth, 
For thou fightest well, I ween. 

65. "Ale hast thou brewed, but, iEgir, now 

Such feasts shalt thou make no more ; 
O'er all that thou hast which is here within 
Shall play the flickering flames, 
(And thy back shall be burnt with fire.)" 

And after that Loki hid himself in Franang's waterfall 
in the guise of a salmon, and there the gods took him. He 
was bound with the bowels of his son Vali, but his son 
Narfi was changed to a wolf. Skathi took a poison-snake 
and fastened it up over Loki's face, and the poison dropped 
thereon. Sigyn, Loki's wife, sat there and held a shell 
under the poison, but when the shell was full she bore 
away the poison, and meanwhile the poison dropped on 
Loki. Then he struggled so hard that the whole earth 
shook therewith ; and now that is called an earthquake. 

65. The fiames: the fire that consumes the world on the last 
day; cf. Voluspo, 57. Line 5 may be spurious. 

Prose: Snorri tells the same story, with minor differences, but 
makes it the consequence of Loki's part in the slaying of Baldr, 
which undoubtedly represents the correct tradition. The compiler 
of the poems either was confused or thought the incident was 



useful as Indicating what finally happened to Loki. Possibly he 
did not mean to imply that Loki's fate was brought upon him by 
his abuse of the gods, but simply tried to round out the story. 
Franang: "Gleaming Water." Vali and Narfi: cf. stanza 49 and 
note. Sigyn: cf. Voluspo, 35, the only other place where she is 
mentioned in the poems. Snorri omits the naive note about earth- 
quakes, his narrative ending with the words, "And there he lies 
till the destruction of the gods." 



The Lay of Thrym 
Introductory Note 

The T hrymskvitha is found only in the Codex Regius, where 
it follows the Lokasenna. Snorri does not quote from it, nor, 
rather oddly, does the story occur in the Prose Edda. 

Artistically the Thrymskv'ttha is one of the best, as it is, next 
to the Voluspo, the most famous, of the entire collection. It has, 
indeed, been called "the finest ballad in the world," and not 
without some reason. Its swift, vigorous action, the sharpness of 
its characterization and the humor of the central situation com- 
bine to make it one of the most vivid short narrative poems ever 
composed. Of course we know nothing specific of its author, but 
there can be no question that he was a poet of extraordinary 
ability. The poem assumed its present form, most critics agree, 
somewhere about 900, and thus it is one of the oldest in the col- 
lection. It has been suggested, on the basis of stylistic similarity, 
that its author may also have composed the Skirnismol, and 
possibly Baldrs Draumar. There is also some resemblance be- 
tween the T hrymskvitha and the Lokasenna (note, in this con- 
nection, Bugge's suggestion that the Skirnismol and the Loka- 
senna may have been by the same man), and it is not impossible 
that all four poems have a single authorship. 

The Thrymskvitha has been preserved in excellent condition, 
without any serious gaps or interpolations. In striking contrast to 
many of the poems, it contains no prose narrative links, the story 
being told in narrative verse — a rare phenomenon in the poems 
of the Edda. 

I, Wild was Vingthor when he awoke. 

And when his mighty hammer he missed; 

I. Vingthor ("Thor the Hurler") : another name for Thor, 
equivalent to Vingnir {Vafthruthnismol, 51). Concerning Thor 
and his hammer, Mjollnir, cf. Hymiskvitha, Lokasenna, and 
Harbarthsljoth, passim. Jorth: Earth, Thor's mother, Othin being 
his father. 

L 174 J 


He shook his beard, his hair was bristling, 
As the son of Jorth about him sought. 

2. Hear now the speech that first he spake : 
"Harken, Loki, and heed my words, 
Nowhere on earth is it known to man, 

Nor in heaven above : our hammer is stolen." 

3. To the dwelling fair of Freyja went they. 
Hear now the speech that first he spake : 
"Wilt thou, Freyja, thy feather-dress lend me, 
That so my hammer I may seek?" 

Freyja spake : 

4. "Thine should it be though of silver bright, 
And I would give it though 'twere of gold." 
Then Loki flew, and the feather-dress whirred, 
Till he left behind him the home of the gods. 
And reached at last the realm of the giants. 

2. Loki: cf. Lokasenna, passim. 

3. Freyja: Njorth's daughter, and sister of Freyr; cf. Loka- 
senna, introductory prose and note, also Skirnismol, introductory 
prose. Freyja's house was Sessrymnir ("Rich in Seats") built in 
Folkvang ("Field of the Folk") ; cf. Grimnismol, 14. Feather' 
dress: this flying equipment of Freyja's is also used in the story 
of Thjazi, wherein Loki again borrows the "hawk's dress" of 
Freyja, this time to rescue Ithun; cf. Harbarthsljoth, 19 and note. 

4. The manuscript and most editions have lines 1-2 in inverse 
order. Several editors assume a lacuna before line i, making a 
stanza out of the two conjectural lines (Bugge actually supplies 
them) and lines 1-2 of stanza 4. Thus they either make a sep- 
arate stanza out of lines 3-5 or unite them in a six-line stanza 
with 5. The manuscript punctuation and capitalization — ^not 


Poetic Edda 

5. Thrym sat on a mound, the giants' master, 
Leashes of gold he laid for his dogs, 

And stroked and smoothed the manes of his steeds. 

Thrym spake: 

6. "How fare the gods, how fare the elves? 
Why comst thou alone to the giants' land ?" 

Loki spake: 
"111 fare the gods, ill fare the elves! 
Hast thou hidden Hlorrithi's hammer?" 

Thrym spake: 

7. "I have hidden Hlorrithi's hammer. 
Eight miles down deep in the earth ; 
And back again shall no man bring it 
If Freyja I win not to be my wife." 

8. Then Loki flew, and the feather-dress whirred. 
Till he left behind him the home of the giants, 
And reached at last the realm of the gods. 
There in the courtyard Thor he met: 

Hear now the speech that first he spake : 

wholly trustworthy guides — indicate the stanza divisions as in 
this translation. 

5. Thrym: a frost-giant. Gering declares that this story of the 
theft of Thor's hammer symbolizes the fact that thunderstorms 
rarely occur in winter. 

6. Line i: cf. Voluspo, 48, i. The manuscript does not indi- 
cate Loki as the speaker of lines 3-4. Hlorrithi: Thor. 

7. No superscription in the manuscript. Vigfusson made up 



9. "Hast thou found tidings as well as trouble? 
Thy news in the air shalt thou utter now ; 
Oft doth the sitter his story forget, 
And lies he speaks who lays himself down." 

Loki spake: 

10. "Trouble I have, and tidings as well: 
Thrym, king of the giants, keeps thy hammer, 
And back again shall no man bring it 

If Freyja he wins not to be his wife." 

11. Freyja the fair then went they to find ; 
Hear now the speech that first he spake: 
"Bind on, Freyja, the bridal veil, 

For we two must haste to the giants* home." 

12. Wrathful was Freyja, and fiercely she snorted. 
And the dwelling great of the gods was shaken, 
And burst was the mighty Brisings' necklace: 
"Most lustful indeed should I look to all 

If I journeyed with thee to the giants' home." 

and inserted lines like "Then spake Loki the son of Laufey" 
whenever he thought they would be useful. 

9. The manuscript marks line 2, instead of line i, as the 
beginning of a stanza, which has caused editors some confusion 
in grouping the lines of stanzas 8 and 9. 

10. No superscription in the manuscript. 

12. Many editors have rejected either line 2 or line 3. Vig- 
fusson inserts one of his own lines before line 4. Brisings' neck- 
lace: a marvelous necklace fashioned by the dwarfs, here called 
Brisings (i.e., "Twiners") ; cf. Lokasenna, 20 and note. 


Poetic Edda 

13. Then were the gods together met, 

And the goddesses came and council held, 
And the far-famed ones a plan would find. 
How they might Hlorrithi's hammer win. 

14. Then Heimdall spake, whitest of the gods, 
Like the Wanes he knew the future well: 
"Bind we on Thor the bridal veil, 

Let him bear the mighty Brisings' necklace ; 

15. "Keys around him let there rattle, 

And down to his knees hang woman's dress; 
With gems full broad upon his breast, 
And a pretty cap to crown his head." 

16. Then Thor the mighty his answer made : 
"Me would the gods unmanly call 

If I let bind the bridal veil." 

17. Then Loki spake, the son of Laufey: 
"Be silent, Thor, and speak not thus; 

13. Lines 1-3 are identical with Baldrs Draumar, i, 1-3. 

14. Heimdall: the phrase "whitest of the gods" suggests that 
Heimdall was the god of light as well as being the watchman. 
His wisdom was probably connected with his sleepless watching 
over all the worlds; cf. Lokasenna, 47 and note. On the Wanes 
of. Voluspo, 21 and note. They are not elsewhere spoken of as 
peculiarly gifted with knowledge of future events. 

16. Possibly a line has been lost from this stanza. 

17. Laufey: Loki's mother, cf. Lokasenna, 52 and note. 



Else will the giants in Asgarth dwell 

If thy hammer is brought not home to thee." 

1 8. Then bound they on Thor the bridal veil, 
And next the mighty Brisings' necklace. 

19. Keys around him let they rattle, 

And down to his knees hung woman's dress ; 
With gems full broad upon his breast, 
And a pretty cap to crown his head. 

20. Then Loki spake, the son of Laufey : 

"As thy maid-servant thither I go with thee ; 
We two shall haste to the giants' home." 

21. Then home the goats to the hall were driven, 
They wrenched at the halters, swift were they to 

The mountains burst, earth burned with fire, 
And Othin's son sought Jotunheim. 

22. Then loud spake Thrym, the giants' leader: 
"Bestir ye, giants, put straw on the benches ; 

18-19. The manuscript abbreviates all six lines, giving only 
the initial letters of the words. The stanza division is thus arbi- 
trary; some editors have made one stanza of the six lines, others 
have combined the last two lines of stanza 19 with stanza 20. 
It is possible that a couple of lines have been lost 

21. Goats: Thor's wagon was always drawn by goats; cf. 
Hymiskvitha, 38 and note. Jotunheim: the world of the giants. 

22. Njortk: cf. Foluspo, 21, and Grimnismol, 11 and 16. Noatun 

[179 J 

Poetic Edda 

Now Freyja they bring to be my bride, 
The daughter of Njorth out of Noatun. 

23. "Gold-horned cattle go to my stables, 
Jet-black oxen, the giant's joy ; 
Many my gems, and many my jewels, 
Freyja alone did I lack, methinks." 

24. Early it was to evening come. 

And forth was borne the beer for the giants; 

Thor alone ate an ox, and eight salmon. 

All the dainties as well that were set for the 

women ; 
And drank Sif's mate three tuns of mead. 

25. Then loud spake Thrym, the giants' leader : 
"Who ever saw bride more keenly bite? 

I ne'er saw bride with a broader bite. 

Nor a maiden who drank more mead than this!" 

26. Hard by there sat the serving-maid wise, 
So well she answered the giant's words : 
"From food has Freyja eight nights fasted, 
So hot was her longing for Jotunheim." 

("Ships'-Haven") : Njorth's home, where his wife, Skathi, found 
it impossible to stay; cf. Grimnismol, 11 and note. 

24. Grundtvig thinks this is all that is left of two stanzas 
describing Thor's supper. Some editors reject line 4. In line 3 
the manuscript has "he," the reference being, of course, to Thor, 
on whose appetite cf. Hymiskvitha, 15. Sif: Thor's wife; cf. 
Lokasenna, note to introductory prose and stanza 53. 

[ 180 ] 


27. Thrym looked 'neath the veil, for he longed to 

But back he leaped the length of the hall : 
"Why are so fearful the eyes of Freyja? 
Fire, methinks, from her eyes bums forth." 

28. Hard by there sat the serving-maid wise, 
So well she answered the giant's words : 
"No sleep has Freyja for eight nights found, 
So hot was her longing for Jotunheim." 

29. Soon came the giant's luckless sister. 
Who feared not to ask the bridal fee : 
"From thy hands the rings of red gold take. 
If thou wouldst win my willing love, 
(My willing love and welcome glad.)" 

30. Then loud spake Thrym, the giants* leader: 
"Bring in the hammer to hallow the bride; 
On the maiden's knees let Mjollnir lie. 
That us both the hand of Vor may bless." 

27. For clearness I have inserted ThrsTn's name in place of 
the pronoun of the original. Fire: the noun is lacking in the manu- 
script; most editors have inserted it, however, following a late 
paper manuscript. 

28. In the manuscript the whole stanza is abbreviated to ini- 
tial letters, except for "sleep," "Freyja," and "found." 

29. Luckless: so the manuscript, but many editors have 
altered the word "arma" to "aldna," meaning "old," to corre- 
spond with line i of stanza 32. Line 5 may well be spurious. 

30. Hallow: just what this means is not clear, but there are 


Poetic Edda 

31. The heart in the breast of Hlorrithi laughed 
When the hard-souled one his hammer beheld ; 
First Thrym, the king of the giants, he killed, 
Then all the folk of the giants he felled. 

32. The giant's sister old he slew, 
She who had begged the bridal fee ; 

A stroke she got in the shilling's stead, 

And for many rings the might of the hammer. 

33. And so his hammer got Othin's son. 

references to other kinds of consecration, though not of a bride, 
with the "sign of the hammer." According to Vigfusson, "the 
hammer was the holy sign with the heathens, answering to the 
cross of the Christians." In Snorri's story of Thor's resuscitation 
of his cooked goat (cf. Hymiskvitha, 38, note) the god "hallows" 
the goat with his hammer. One of the oldest runic signs, sup- 
posed to have magic power, was named Thor's-hammer. Vor: 
the goddess of vows, particularly between men and women; 
Snorri lists a number of little-known goddesses similar to Vor, 
all of them apparently little more than names for Frigg. 

33. Some editors reject this line, which, from a dramatic stand- 
point, is certainly a pity. In the manuscript it begins with a 
capital letter, like the opening of a new stanza. 



The Ballad of Alvis 

Introductory Note 

No better summary of the Alvissmol can be given than 
Gering's statement that "it is a versified chapter from the skaldic 
Poetics." The narrative skeleton, contained solely in stanzas 1-8 
and in 35, is of the slightest; the dwarf Alvis, desirous of marry- 
ing Thor's daughter, is compelled by the god to answer a number 
of questions to test his knowledge. That all his answers are quite 
satisfactory makes no difference whatever to the outcome. The 
questions and answers differ radically from those of the Vaf- 
thruthnismol. Instead of being essentially mythological, they all 
concern synonyms. Thor asks what the earth, the sky, the moon, 
and so on, are called " in each of all the worlds," but there is no 
apparent significance in the fact that the gods call the earth one 
thing and the giants call it another; the answers are simply 
strings of poetic circumlocutions, or "kennings." Concerning the 
use of these "kennings" in skaldic poetry, cf. introductory note to 
the Hymiskvitha. 

Mogk is presumably right in dating the poem as late as the 
twelfth century, assigning it to the period of "the Icelandic 
renaissance of skaldic poetry." It appears to have been the work 
of a man skilled in poetic construction, — Thor's questions, for 
instance, are neatly balanced in pairs, — and fully familiar with 
the intricacies of skaldic diction, but distinctly weak in his myth- 
ology. In other words, it is learned rather than spontaneous 
poetry. Finnur Jonsson's attempt to make it a tenth century Nor- 
wegian poem baffles logic. Vigfusson is pretty sure the poem 
shows marked traces of Celtic influence, which is by no means 
incompatible with Mogk's theory (cf. introductory note to the 
Rigsthula) . 

The poem is found only in Regius, where it follows the 
T hrymskvitha. Snorri quotes stanzas 20 and 30, the manuscripts 
of the Prose Edda giving the name of the poem as Alvissmol, 
Alsvinnsmol or Olvismol. It is apparently in excellent condition, 
without serious errors of transmission, although interpolations or 
omissions in such a poem might have been made so easily as to 
defy detection. 

The translation of the many synonyms presents, of course, 


Poetic Edda 

unusual difficulties, particularly as many of the Norse words can 
be properly rendered in English only by more or less extended 
phrases. I have kept to the original meanings as closely as I 
could without utterly destroying the metrical structure. 

Alvis spake: 

1. "Now shall the bride my benches adorn, 

And homeward haste forthwith ; 
Eager for wedlock to all shall I seem, 
Nor at home shall they rob me of rest." 

Thor spake: 

2. "What, pray, art thou? Why so pale round the 

By the dead hast thou lain of late? 
To a giant like dost thou look, methinks; 
Thou wast not born for the bride." 

A his spake: 

3. "Alvis am I, and under the earth 

My home 'neath the rocks I have; 

1. Alvis ("All-Knowing") : a dwarf, not elsewhere men- 
tioned. The manuscript nowhere indicates the speakers' namef . 
The bride in question is Thor's daughter; Thruth ("Might") is 
the only daughter of his whose name is recorded, and she does 
not appear elsewhere in the poems. Her mother was Sif, Thor's 
wife, whereas the god's sons were born of a giantess. Benches: 
cf. Lokasenna, 15 and note. 

2. The dwarfs, living beyond the reach of the sun, which was 
fatal to them (cf. stanzas 16 and 35), were necessarily pale. Line 
3 is, of course, ironical. 

3. fVagon-guider: Thor, who travels habitually on his goat- 
drawn wagon. Bugge changes "Vagna vers" to "Vapna verl)s," 



With the wagon-guider a word do I seek ; 
Let the gods their bond not break." 

Thor spake: 

4. "Break it shall I, for over the bride 

Her father has foremost right; 
At home was I not when the promise thou hadst, 
And I give her alone of the gods." 

Alvis spake: 

5. "What hero claims such right to hold 

O'er the bride that shines so bright? 
Not many will know thee, thou wandering man ! 
Who was bought with rings to bear thee?" 

Thor spake: 

6. "Vingthor, the wanderer wide, am I, 

And I am Sithgrani's son ; 
Against my will shalt thou get the maid, 
And win the marriage word." 

rendering the line "I am come to seek the cost of the weapons." 
In either case, Alvis does not as yet recognize Thor. 

4. Apparently the gods promised Thor's daughter in marriage 
to Alvis during her father's absence, perhaps as a reward for 
some craftsmanship of his (cf. Bugge's suggestion as to stanza 
3). The text of line 4 is most uncertain. 

5. Hero: ironically spoken; Alvis takes Thor for a tramp, the 
god's uncouth appearance often leading to such mistakes; cf. 
Harbarthsljoth, 6. Line 4 is a trifle uncertain ; some editors alter 
the wording to read "What worthless woman bore thee?" 

6. Vingthor ("Thor the Hurler") : cf. Thrymskvitha, i. Sith- 
grani ("Long-Beard") : Othin. 


Poetic Edda 

A his spake: 
"Thy good-will now shall I quickly get, 

And win the marriage word; 
I long to have, and I would not lack. 

This snow-white maid for mine." 

Thor spake: 

8. "The love of the maid I may not keep thee 

From winning, thou guest so wise, 
If of every world thou canst tell me all 
That now I wish to know. 

9. "Answer me, Alvis! thou knowest all. 

Dwarf, of the doom of men: 
What call they the earth, that lies before all, 
In each and every world?" 

Alvis spake: 
10. " 'Earth' to men, Tield' to the gods it is, 
'The Ways' is it called by the Wanes; 

8. Every world: concerning the nine worlds, of. Voluspo, 2 
and note. Many editors follow this stanza with one spoken by 
Alvis, found in late paper manuscripts, as follows: "Ask then, 
Vingthor, since eager thou art / The lore of the dwarf to 
learn; / Oft have I fared in the nine worlds all, / And wide 
is my wisdom of each." 

10. Men, etc.: nothing could more clearly indicate the author's 
mythological inaccuracy than his confusion of the inhabitants of 
the nine worlds. Men (dwellers in Mithgarth) appear in each 
of Alvis's thirteen answers; so do the gods (Asgarth) and the 
giants (Jotunheim). The elves (Alfheim) appear in eleven 



'Ever Green' by the giants, 'The Grower' by 
'The Moist' by the holy ones high." 

Thor spake: 

11. "Answer me, Alvis! thou knowest all, 

Dwarf, of the doom of men: 
What call they the heaven, beheld of the high 
In each and every world?" 

Alvis spake: 

12. " 'Heaven' men call it, 'The Height' the gods, 

The Wanes 'The Weaver of Winds'; 
Giants 'The Up-World,' elves 'The Fair-Roof,' 
The dwarfs 'The Dripping Hall.' " 

answers, the Wanes (Vanaheim) in nine, and the dwarfs (who 
occupied no special world, unless one identifies them with the 
dark elves of Svartalfaheim) in seven. The dwellers "in hell" 
appear in six stanzas; the phrase probably refers to the world 
of the dead, though Mogk thinks it may mean the dwarfs. In 
stanzas where the gods are already listed appear names else- 
where applied only to them, — "holy ones," "sons of the gods" 
and "high ones," — as if these names meant beings of a separate 
race. "Men" appears twice in the same stanza, and so do the 
giants, if one assumes that they are "the sons of Suttung." Alto- 
gether it is useless to pay much attention to the mythology of 
Alvis's replies. 

II. Lines i, 2, and 4 of Thor's questions are regularly abbre- 
viated in the manuscript. Beheld, etc.: the word in the manu- 
script is almost certainly an error, and all kinds of guesses 
have been made to rectify it. All that can be said is that it means 
"beheld of" or "known to" somebody. 


Poetic Edda 

Thor spake: 

13. "Answer me, Alvis! thou knowest all, 

Dwarf, of the doom of men: 
What call they the moon, that men behold, 
In each and every world?" 

Alvis spake: 

14. "'Moon' with men, 'Flame' the gods among, 

'The Wheel' in the house of hell; 
'The Goer' the giants, 'The Gleamer' the 

The elves 'The Teller of Time.' " 

Thor spake: 

15. "Answer me, Alvis! thou knowest all, 

Dwarf, of the doom of men : 
What call they the sun, that all men see, 
In each and every world?" 

Alvis spake: 

16. "Men call it 'Sun,' gods 'Orb of the Sun,' 

'The Deceiver of Dvalin' the dwarfs; 
The giants 'The Ever-Bright,' elves 'Fair 
'All-Glowing' the sons of the gods." 

14. Flame: a doubtful word; Vigfusson suggests that it prop- 
erly means a "mock sun." Wheel: the manuscript adds the adjec- 
tive "whirling," to the destruction of the metre; of. Hovamol, 

84, 3. 

16. Deceiver of Dvalin: Dvalin was one of the foremost 
dwarfs; of. Voluspo, 14, Fafnismol, 13, and Hovamol, 144. The 

[ 188 ] 


Thor spake: 

17. "Answer me, Alvis! thou knowest all, 

Dwarf, of the doom of men: 
What call they the clouds, that keep the rains, 
In each and every world?" 

Alvis spake: 

1 8. " 'Clouds' men name them, *Rain-Hope' gods 

call them. 
The Wanes call them 'Kites of the Wind'; 
'Water-Hope' giants, 'Weather-Might' elves, 
'The Helmet of Secrets' in hell." 

Thor spake: 

19. "Answer me, Alvis! thou knowest all, 

Dwarf, of the doom of men : 
What call they the wind, that widest fares, 
In each and every world ?" 

Alvis spake: 

20. " 'Wind' do men call it, the gods 'The Waverer,' 

'The Neigher' the holy ones high ; 

sun "deceives" him because, like the other dwarfs living under- 
ground, he cannot live in its light, and always fears lest sunrise 
may catch him unaware. The sun's rays have power to turn the 
dwarfs into stone, and the giantess Hrimgerth meets a similar 
fate (cf. Helgakvitha Hjorvarths sonar, 30). Alvis suffers in 
the same way; cf. stanza 35. 

20. Snorri quotes this stanza in the Skaldskaparmal. tVa- 
verer: the word is uncertain, the Prose Edda manuscripts giving 
it in various forms. Blustering Blast: two Prose Edda manu- 
scripts give a totally different word, meaning "The Pounder." 

[ 189 ] 

Poetic Edda 

'The Wailer' the giants, 'Roaring Wender' the 
In hell 'The Blustering Blast.' " 

Thor spake: 

21. "Answer me, Alvis! thou knowest all, 

Dwarf, of the doom of men: 
What call they the calm, that quiet lies, 
In each and every world ?" 

Alvis spake: 

22. " 'Calm' men call it, 'The Quiet' the gods. 

The Wanes 'The Hush of the Winds' ; 
'The Sultry' the giants, elves 'Day's Stillness,' 
The dwarfs 'The Shelter of Day.' " 

Thor spake: 

23. "Answer me, Alvis! thou knowest all. 

Dwarf, of the doom of men: 
What call they the sea, whereon men sail. 
In each and every world?" 

Alvis spake: 

24. " 'Sea' men call it, gods 'The Smooth-Lying,' 

'The Wave' is it called by the Wanes; 

22. Hush, etc.: the manuscript, by inserting an additional 
letter, makes the word practically identical with that translated 
"Kite" in stanza 18. Most editors have agreed as to the 

24. Drink-Stuff: Gering translates the word thus; I doubt it, 
but can suggest nothing better. 



'Eel-Home' the giants, 'Drink-Stuff' the elves, 
For the dwarfs its name is 'The Deep.* " 

Thor spake: 

25. "Answer me, Alvis! thou knowest all, 

Dwarf, of the doom of men: 
What call they the fire, that flames for men, 
In each of all the worlds?" 

Alvis spake: 

26. " 'Fire' men call it, and 'Flame' the gods, 

By the Wanes is it 'Wildfire' called; 
'The Biter' by giants, 'The Burner' by dwarfs, 
'The Swift' in the house of hell." 

Thor spake: 

27. "Answer me, Alvis! thou knowest all, 

Dwarf, of the doom of men: 
What call they the wood, that grows for man- 
In each and every world?" 

Alvis spake: 

28. "Men call it 'The Wood,* gods 'The Mane of 

the Field,' 

26. Wildfire: the word may mean any one of various things, 
including "Wave," which is not unliicely. 

28. In hell: the word simply means "men," and it is only a 
guess, though a generally accepted one, that here it refers to the 

[191 J 

Poetic Edda 

'Seaweed of Hills' in hell; 
'Flame-Food' the giants, 'Fair-Limbed' the elves, 
'The Wand' is it called by the Wanes." 

Thor spake: 

29. "Answer me, Alvis! thou knowest all, 

Dwarf, of the doom of men: 
What call they the night, the daughter of Nor, 
In each and every world?" 

Alvis spake: 

30. " 'Night' men call it, 'Darkness' gods name it, 

'The Hood' the holy ones high ; 
The giants 'The Lightless,* the elves 'Sleep's 

The dwarfs 'The Weaver of Dreams.* " 

Thor spake: 

31. "Answer me, Alvis! thou knowest all. 

Dwarf, of the doom of men : 
What call they the seed, that is sown by men. 
In each and every world?" 

29. Nor: presumably the giant whom Snorri calls Norvi or 
Narfi, father of Not (Night) and grandfather of Dag (Day). 
Cf. V afthruthnismol , 25. 

30. Snorri quotes this stanza in the Skaldskaparmal. The 
various Prose Edda m'anuscripts diifer considerably in naming 
the gods, the giants, etc. Lightless: some manuscripts have "The 

32. Grain: the two words translated "grain" and "corn" 
apparently both meant primarily barley, and thence grain io 

[ 192 ] 


Alvis spake: 

32. "Men call it 'Grain,' and 'Corn' the gods, 

'Growth' in the world of the Wanes; 
'The Eaten' by giants, 'Drink-Stuff' by elves, 
In hell 'The Slender Stem.' " 

Thor spake: 

33. "Answer me, Alvis! thou knowest all, 

Dwarf, of the doom of men: 
What call they the ale, that is quaffed of men. 
In each and every world?" 

Alvis spake: 

34. " 'Ale' among men, 'Beer' the gods among. 

In the world of the Wanes 'The Foaming' ; 
'Bright Draught' with giants, 'Mead' with 
dwellers in hell, 
'The Feast-Draught' with Suttung's sons." 

Thor spake: 

35. "In a single breast I never have seen 

More wealth of wisdom old ; 

general, the first being the commoner term of the two. Drink- 
Stuff: the word is identical with the one used, and commented 
on, in stanza 24, and again I have followed Gering's interpre- 
tation for want of a better one. If his guess is correct, the ref- 
erence here is evidently to grain as the material from which beer 
and other drinks are brewed. 

34. Suttung's sons: these ought to be the giants, but the giants 
are specifically mentioned in line 3. The phrase "Suttung's sons" 
occurs in Skirnismol, 34, clearly meaning the giants. Concerning 
Suttung as the possessor of the mead of poetry, cf. Hovamol, 104. 

[ 193 ] 

Poetic Edda 

But with treacherous wiles must I now betray 
The day has caught thee, dwarf! 
( Now the sun shines here in the hall. ) " 

35. Concerning the inability of the dwarfs to endure sunlight, 
which turns them into stone, cf. stanza 16 and note. Line 5 may 
be spurious. 



Baldrs Dreams 

Introductory Note 

Baldrs Draumar is found only in the Arnamagnaan Codex, 
where it follows the Harbarthsljoth fragment. It is preserved in 
various late paper manuscripts, with the title Vegtamskvitha 
(The Lay of Vegtam), vfhich has been used by some editors. 

The poem, which contains but fourteen stanzas, has appar- 
ently been preserved in excellent condition. Its subject-matter and 
style link it closely with the Voluspo, Four of the five lines of 
stanza ii appear, almost without change, in the Voluspo, 32-33, 
and the entire poem is simply an elaboration of the episode out- 
lined in those and the preceding stanzas. It has been suggested 
that Baldrs Draumar and the Voluspo may have been by the 
same author. There is also enough similarity in style between 
Baldrs Draumar and the Thrymskvitha (note especially the 
opening stanza) to give color to Vigfusson's guess that these two 
poems had a common authorship. In any case, Baldrs Draumar 
presumably assumed its present form not later than the first half 
of the tenth century. 

Whether the Volva (wise-woman) of the poem is identical 
with the speaker in the Voluspo is purely a matter for conjecture. 
Nothing definitely opposes such a supposition. As in the longer 
poem she foretells the fall of the gods, so in this case she 
prophesies the first incident of that fall, the death of Baldr. 
Here she is called up from the dead by Othin, anxious to know 
the meaning of Baldr's evil dreams; in the Voluspo it is likewise 
intimated that the Volva has risen from the grave. 

The poem, like most of the others in the collection, is essen- 
tially dramatic rather than narrative, summarizing a story which 
was doubtless familiar to every one who heard tkfi poem, recited. 

I. Once were the gods together met, 

And the goddesses came and council held, 

I. Lines 1-3 are identical with Thrymskvitha, 13, 1-3. Baldr: 
concerning this best and noblest of the gods, the son of Othin and 


Poetic Edda 

And the far-famed ones the truth would find, 
Why baleful dreams to Baldr had come. 

2. Then Othin rose, the enchanter old, 
And the saddle he laid on Sleipnir's back; 
Thence rode he down to Niflhel deep, 
And the hound he met that came from hell. 

3. Bloody he was on his breast before, 

At the father of magic he howled from afar; 
Forward rode Othin, the earth resounded 
Till the house so high of Hel he reached. 

4. Then Othin rode to the eastern door, 

There, he knew well, was the wise- woman's 

grave ; 
Magic he spoke and mighty charms, 
Till spell-bound she rose, and in death she spoke : 

Frigg, who comes again among the survivors after the final 
battle, cf. Voluspo, 32 and 62, and notes. He is almost never men- 
tioned anywhere except in connection with the story of his death, 
though Snorri has one short passage praising his virtue and 
beauty. After stanza i two old editions, and one later one, insert 
four stanzas from late paper manuscripts. 

2. Sleipnir: Othin's eight-legged horse, the son of Loki and 
the stallion Svathilfari; cf. Lokasenna, 23, and Grimnismol, 44, 
and notes. Niflhel: the murky ("nifl") dwelling of Hel, goddess 
of the dead. The hound: Garm; cf. Voluspo, 44. 

3. Father of magic: Othin appears constantly as the god of 
magic. Hel: offspring of Loki and the giantess Angrbotha, as 
were the wolf Fenrir and Mithgarthsorm. She ruled the world of 
the unhappy dead, either those who had led evil lives or, accord- 
ing to another tradition, those who had not died in battle. The 


Baldrs Draumar 

"What is the man, to me unknown, 

That has made me travel the troublous road ? 

I was snowed on with snow, and smitten with 

And drenched with dew ; long was I dead." 

Othin spake: 
"Vegtam my name, I am Valtam's son; 
Speak thou of hell, for of heaven I know : 
For whom are the benches bright with rings, 
And the platforms gay bedecked with gold ?" 

The Wise-Woman spake: 
"Here for Baldr the mead is brewed, 
The shining drink, and a shield lies o'er it; 
But their hope is gone from the mighty gods. 
Unwilling I spake, and now would be still." 

manuscript marks line 3 as the beginning of a stanza, and thus 
the editions vary in their grouping of the lines of this and the 
succeeding stanzas. 

6. The manuscript has no superscriptions indicating the 
speakers. Vegtam ("The Wanderer") : Othin, as usual, con- 
ceals his identity, calling himself the son of Valtam ("The 
Fighter"). In this instance he has unusual need to do so, for as 
the wise-woman belongs apparently to the race of the giants, 
she would be unwilling to answer a god's questions. Heaven: 
the word used includes all the upper worlds, in contrast to hell. 
Benches, etc. : the adornment of the benches and raised platforms, 
or elevated parts of the house, was a regular part of the prep- 
aration for a feast of welcome. The text of the two last lines is 
somewhat uncertain. 

7. Grundtvig, followed by Edzardi. thinks a line has been 
lost between lines 3 and 4. 

[197 J 

Poetic Edda 

Othin spake: 
"Wise-woman, cease not! I seek from thee 
All to know that I fain would ask: 
Who shall the bane of Baldr become, 
And steal the life from Othin's son?" 

The Wise-Woman spake: 
9. "Hoth thither bears the far-famed branch, 
He shall the bane of Baldr become, 
And steal the life from Othin's son. 
Unwilling I spake, and now would be still." 

Othin spake: 

10. "Wise-woman, cease not! I seek fiom thee 
All to know that I fain would ask: 

Who shall vengeance win for the evil work, 
Or bring to the flames the slayer of Baldr?" 

The Wise-Woman spake: 

11. "Rind bears Vali in Vestrsalir, 

And one night old fights Othin's son; 

9. Concerning the blind Hoth, who, at Loki's instigation, cast 
the fatal mistletoe at Baldr, cf. Voluspo, 32-33 and notes. In the 
manuscript the last line is abbreviated, as also in stanza 11. 

10. In the manuscript lines 1-2 are abbreviated, as also in 
stanza 12. 

11. Rind: mentioned by Snorri as one of the goddesses. Con- 
cerning her son Vali, begotten by Othin for the express purpose 
of avenging Baldr's death, and his slaying of Hoth the day after 
his birth, cf. Voluspo, 33-34, where the lines of this stanza appear 
practically verbatim. Vestrsalir ("The Western Hall") : not else- 
where mentioned in the poems. 


Baldrs Draumar 

His hands he shall wash not, his hair he shall 

comb not, 
Till the slayer of Baldr he brings to the flames. 
Unwilling I spake, and now would be still." 

Othin spake: 
12. "Wise-woman, cease not! I seek from thee 
All to know that I fain would ask: 
What maidens are they who then shall weep. 
And toss to the sky the yards of the sails?" 

The Wise-Woman spake: 
13- "Vegtam thou art not, as erstwhile I thought; 
Othin thou art, the enchanter old." 

Othin spake: 
"No wise- woman art thou, nor wisdom hast; 
Of giants three the mother art thou." 

The Wise-Woman spake: 
14. "Home ride, Othin, be ever proud; 
For no one of men shall seek me more 

12. The manuscript marks the third line as the beginning of 
a stanza; something may have been lost. Lines 3-4 are thoroughly 
obscure. According to Bugge the maidens who are to weep for 
Baldr are the daughters of the sea-god ^gir, the waves, whose 
grief will be so tempestuous that they will toss the ships up to 
the very sky. "Yards of the sails" is a doubtfully accurate ren- 
dering; the two words, at any rate in later Norse nautical speech, 
meant respectively the "tack" and the "sheet" of the square sail. 

13. Possibly two separate stanzas. Enchanter: the meaning of 
the original word is most uncertain. 


Poetic Edda 

Till Loki wanders loose from his bonds, 
And to the last strife the destroyers come." 

14. Concerning Loki's escape and his relation to the destruc- 
tion of the gods, cf. Voluspo, 35 and 51, and notes. While the 
wise-woman probably means only that she will never speak 
again till the end of the world, it has been suggested, and is cer- 
tainly possible, that she intends to give Loki her counsel, thus 
revenging herself on Othin. 



The Song of Rig 

Introductory Note 

The Rigsthula is found in neither of the principal codices. 
The only manuscript containing it is the so-called Codex Wor- 
manius, a manuscript of Snorri's Prose Edda. The poem appears 
on the last sheet of this manuscript, which unluckily is incom- 
plete, and thus the end of the poem is lacking. In the Codex 
Wormanius itself the poem has no title, but a fragmentary parch- 
ment included with it calls the poem the Rigsthula. Some late 
paper manuscripts give it the title of Rigsmol. 

The Rigsthula is essentially unlike anything else which editors 
have agreed to include in the so-called Edda. It is a definitely 
cultural poem, explaining, on a mythological basis, the origin of 
the different castes of early society: the thralls, the peasants, and 
the warriors. From the warriors, finally, springs one who is 
destined to become a king, and thus the whole poem is a song in 
praise of the royal estate. This fact in itself would suffice to indi- 
cate that the Rigsthula was not composed in Iceland, where for 
centuries kings were regarded with profound disapproval. 

Not only does the Rigsthula praise royalty, but it has many 
of the earmarks of a poem composed in praise of a particular 
king. The manuscript breaks off at a most exasperating point, 
just as the connection between the mythical "Young Kon" (Konr 
ungr, konungr, "king"; but cf. stanza 44, note) and the monarch 
in question is about to be established. Owing to the character of 
the Norse settlements in Iceland, Ireland, and the western islands 
generally, search for a specific king leads back to either Norway 
or Denmark; despite the arguments advanced by Edzardi, Vig- 
fusson, Powell, and others, it seems most improbable that such a 
poem should have been produced elsewhere than on the Conti- 
nent, the region where Scandinavian royalty most flourished. 
Finnur Jonsson's claim for Norway, with Harald the Fair-Haired 
as the probable king in question, is much less impressive than 
Mogk's ingenious demonstration that the poem was in all prob- 
ability composed in Denmark, in honor of either Gorm the Old 
or Harald Blue-Tooth. His proof is based chiefly on the evi- 
dence provided by stanza 49, and is summarized in the note to 
that stanza. 


Poetic Edda 

The poet, however, was certainly not a Dane, but probably a 
wandering Norse singer, who may have had a dozen homes, 
and who clearly had spent much time in some part of the western 
island world chiefly inhabited by Celts. The extent of Celtic influ- 
ence on the Eddie poems in general is a matter of sharp dispute. 
Powell, for example, claims almost all the poems for the "West- 
ern Isles," and attributes nearly all their good qualities to Celtic 
influence. Without here attempting to enter into the details of 
the argument, it may be said that the weight of authoritative 
opinion, while clearly recognizing the marks of Celtic influence 
in the poems, is against this view; contact between the roving 
Norsemen of Norway and Iceland and the Celts of Ireland and 
the "Western Isles," and particularly the Orkneys, was so ex- 
tensive as to make the presumption of an actual Celtic home for 
the poems seem quite unnecessary. 

In the case of the Rigsthula the poet unquestionably had not 
only picked up bits of the Celtic speech (the name Rig itself is 
almost certainly of Celtic origin, and there are various other 
Celtic words employed), but also had caught something of the 
Celtic literary spirit. This explains the cultural nature of the 
poem, quite foreign to Norse poetry in general. On the other 
hand, the style as a whole is vigorously Norse, and thus the 
explanation that the poem was composed by an itinerant Norse 
poet who had lived for some time in the Celtic islands, and 
who was on a visit to the court of a Danish king, fits the ascer- 
tainable facts exceedingly well. As Christianity was introduced 
into Denmark around 960, the Rigsthula is not likely to have 
been composed much after that date, and probably belongs to the 
first half of the tenth century. Gorm the Old died about the year 
935, and was succeeded by Harald Blue-Tooth, who died about 

The fourteenth (or late thirteenth) century annotator identi* 
fies Rig with Heimdall, but there is nothing in the poem itself, 
and very little anywhere else, to warrant this, and it seems 
likely that the poet had Othin, and not Heimdall, in mind, his 
purpose being to trace the origin of the royal estate to the chief 
of the gods. The evidence bearing on this identification is briefly 
summed up in the note on the introductory prose passage, but 
the question involves complex and baffling problems in mythology, 
and from very early times the status of Heimdall was unquet* 
tionably confusing to the Norse mind. 



They tell in old stories that one of the gods, whose name 
was Heimdall, went on his way along a certain seashore, 
and came to a dwelling, where he called himself Rig. 
According to these stories is the following poem : 

I. Men say there went by ways so green 
Of old the god, the aged and wise, 
Mighty and strong did Rig go striding. 

Prose. It would be interesting to know how much the anno- 
tator meant by the phrase old stories. Was he familiar with the 
tradition in forms other than that of the poem? If so, his intro- 
ductory note was scanty, for, outside of identifying Rig as Heim- 
dall, he provides no information not found in the poem. Prob- 
ably he meant simply to refer to the poem itself as a relic of 
antiquity, and the identification of Rig as Heimdall may well 
have been an attempt at constructive criticism of his own. The 
note was presumably written somewhere about 1300, or even 
later, and there is no reason for crediting the annotator with 
any considerable knowledge of mythology. There is little to 
favor the identification of Rig with Heimdall, the watchman of 
the gods, beyond a few rather vague passages in the other poems. 
Thus in Voluspo, i, the Volva asks hearing "from Heimdall's 
sons both high and low"; in Grimnismol, 13, there is a very 
doubtful line which may mean that Heimdall "o'er men holds 
sway, it is said," and in "the Short Voluspo" {Hyndluljoth, 40) 
he is called "the kinsman of men." On the other hand, every- 
thing in the Rigsthula, including the phrase "the aged and wise" 
in stanza i, and the references to runes in stanzas 36, 44, and 46, 
fits Othin exceedingly well. It seems probable that the annotator 
was wrong, and that Rig is Othin, and not Heimdall. Rig: almost 
certainly based on the Old Irish word for "king," "ri" or "rig." 

I. No gap is indicated, but editors have generally assumed 
one. Some editors, however, add line i of stanza 2 to stanza i. 


Poetic Edda 

2. Forward he went on the midmost way, 
He came to a dwelling, a door on its posts; 
In did he fare, on the floor was a fire. 
Two hoary ones by the hearth there sat, 
Ai and Edda, in olden dress. 

3. Rig knew well wise words to speak, 
Soon in the midst of the room he sat, 
And on either side the others were. 

4. A loaf of bread did Edda bring. 

Heavy and thick and swollen with husks; 
Forth on the table she set the fare. 
And broth for the meal in a bowl there was. 
(Calf's flesh boiled was the best of the dainties.) 

5. Rig knew well wise words to speak, 
Thence did he rise, made ready to sleep ; 
Soon in the bed himself did he lay, 
And on either side the others were. 

2. Most editions make line 5 a part of the stanza, as here, 
but some indicate it as the sole remnant of one or more stanzas 
descriptive of Ai and Edda, just as Afi and Amraa, Fathir and 
Mothir, are later described. Ai and Edda: Great-Grandfather 
and Great-Grandmother; the latter name was responsible for 
Jakob Grimm's famous guess at the meaning of the word "Edda" 
as applied to the whole collection (cf. Introduction). 

3. A line may have been lost from this stanza. 

4. Line 5 has generally been rejected as spurious. 

5. The manuscript has lines 1-2 in inverse order, bat marks 
the word "Rig" as the beginning of a stanza. 



6. Thus was he there for three nights long, 
Then forward he went on the midmost way, 
And so nine months were soon passed by. 

7. A son bore Edda, with water they sprinkled him, 
With a cloth his hair so black they covered; 
Thraell they named him, 

8. The skin was wrinkled and rough on his hands, 

Knotted his knuckles, 

Thick his fingers, and ugly his face, 

Twisted his back, and big his heels. 

9. He began to grow, and to gain in strength. 
Soon of his might good use he made ; 

6. The manuscript does not indicate that these lines form a 
separate stanza, and as only one line and a fragment of another 
are left of stanza 7, the editions have grouped the lines in all 
sorts of ways, with, of course, various conjectures as to where 
lines may have been lost. 

7. After line i the manuscript has only four words: "cloth," 
"black," "named," and "Thraell." No gap is anywhere indicated. 
Editors have pieced out the passage in various ways. Water, etc. : 
concerning the custom of sprinkling water on children, which 
long antedated the introduction of Christianity, cf. Hovamol, 159 
and note. Black: dark hair, among the blond Scandinavians, was 
the mark of a foreigner, hence of a slave. Thrall: Thrall or 

8. In the manuscript line i of stanza 9 stands before stanza 
8, neither line being capitalized as the beginning of a stanza. I 
have followed Bugge's rearrangement. The manuscript indicates 
no gap in line 2, but nearly all editors have assumed one, 
Grundtvig supplying "and rough his nails." 

9. The manuscript marks line 2 as the beginning of a stanza. 


Poetic Edda 

With bast he bound, and burdens carried, 
Home bore faggots the whole day long. 

10. One came to their home, crooked her legs, 
Stained were her feet, and sunburned her arms, 
Flat was her nose; hername was Thir. 

11. Soon in the midst of the room she sat, 
By her side there sat the son of the house ; 
They whispered both, and the bed made ready, 
Thraell and Thir, till the day was through. 

12. Children they had, they lived and were happy, 
Fjosnir and Klur they were called, methinks, 
Hreim and Kleggi, Kefsir, Fulnir, 
Drumb, Digraldi, Drott and Leggjaldi, 

Lut and Hosvir ; the house they cared for, 

Ground they dunged, and swine they guarded, 
Goats they tended, and turf they dug. 

lo. A line may well have dropped out, but the manuscript is 
too uncertain as to the stanza-divisions to make any guess safe. 
Crooked: the word in the original is obscure. Stained: literally, 
"water was on her soles." Thir: "Serving-Woman." 

12. There is some confusion as to the arrangement of the 
lines and division into stanzas of i2 and 13. The names mean: 
Fjosnir, "Cattle-Man"; Klur, "The Coarse"; Hreim, "The 
Shouter"; Kleggi, "The Horse-Fly" ; Kefsir, "Concubine-Keeper" ; 
Fulnir, "The Stinking"; Drumb, "The Log"; Digraldi, "The 
Fat"; Drott, "The Sluggard"; Leggjaldi, "The Big-Legged"; 
Lut, "The Bent" ; Hosvir, "The Grey." 



13. Daughters had they, Drumba and Kumba, 
Okkvinkalfa, Arinnefja, 

Ysja and Ambott, Eikintjasna, 
Totrughypja and Tronubeina; 
And thence has risen the race of thralk. 

14. Forward went Rig, his road was straight, 
To a hall he came, and a door there hung; 
In did he fare, on the floor was a fire: 
Ail and Amma owned the house. 

15. There sat the twain, and worked at their tasks: 
The man hewed wood for the weaver's beam ; 
His beard was trimmed, o'er his brow a curl, 
His clothes fitted close ; in the comer a chest. 

16. The woman sat and the distafi wielded, 

At the weaving with arms outstretched she 

worked ; 
On her head was a band, on her breast a smock; 
On her shoulders a kerchief with clasps there was. 

13. The names mean: Drumba, "The Log"; Kumba, "The 
Stumpy"; Okkvinkalfa, "Fat-Legged"; Arinnefja, "Homely- 
Nosed"; Ysja, "The Noisy"; Ambott, "The Servant"; Eikin- 
tjasna, "The Oaken Peg" ( ?) ; Totrughypja, "Clothed in Rags"; 
Tronubeina, "Crane-Legged." 

14. In the manuscript line 4 stands after line 4 of stanza 16, 
but several editors have rearranged the lines, as here. Afi and 
Amma: Grandfather and Grandmother. 

15. There is considerable confusion among the editors as to 
where this stanza begins and ends. 

16. The manuscript marks line 3 as the beginning of a stanza. 


Poetic Edda 

17. Rig knew well wise words to speak, 
Soon in the midst of the room he sat, 
And on either side the others were. 

1 8. Then took Amma 

The vessels full with the fare she set, 

Calf's flesh boiled was the best of the dainties. 

19. Rig knew well wise words to speak, 

He rose from the board, made ready to sleep; 
Soon in the bed himself did he lay. 
And on either side the others were. 

20. Thus was he there for three nights long, 
Then forward he went on the midmost way. 
And so nine months were soon passed by. 

21. A son bore Amma, with water they sprinkled him, 
Karl they named him; in a cloth she wrapped 

He was ruddy of face, and flashing his eyes. 

17. The manuscript jumps from stanza 17, line i, to stanza 
19, line 2. Bugge points out that the copyist's eye was presumably 
led astray by the fact that 17, i, and 19, i, were identical. Lines 
2-3 of 17 are supplied from stanzas 3 and 29. 

18. I have followed Bugge's conjectural construction of the 
missing stanza, taking lines 2 and 3 from stanzas 31 and 4. 

i9.The manuscript marks line 2 as the beginning of a stanza. 

20. The manuscript omits line 2, supplied by analogy with 
stanza 6. 



22. He began to grow, and to gain in strength, 
Oxen he ruled, and plows made ready. 
Mouses he built, and barns he fashioned, 
Carts he made, and the plow he managed. 

23. Home did they bring the bride for Karl, 
In goatskins clad, and keys she bore; 
Snor was her name, 'neath the veil she sat ; 
A home they made ready, and rings exchanged, 
The bed they decked, and a dwelling made. 

24. Sons they had, they lived and were happy: 
Hal and Dreng, Holth, Thegn and Smith, 
Breith and Bondi, Bundinskeggi, 

Bui and Boddi, Brattskegg and Segg. 

21. Most editors assume a lacuna, after either line 2 or line 
3. Sijmons assumes, on the analogy of stanza 8, that a complete 
stanza describing Karl ("Yeoman") has been lost between 
stanzas 21 and 22. 

22. No line indicated in the manuscript as beginning a stanza. 
Cart: the word in the original, "kartr," is one of the clear signs 
of the Celtic influence noted in the introduction. 

23. Bring: the word literally means "drove in a wagon" — a 
mark of the bride's social status. Snor: "Daughter-in-Law." 
Bugge, followed by several editors, maintains that line 4 was 
wrongly interpolated here from a missing stanza describing the 
marriage of Kon. 

24. No line indicated in the manuscript as beginning a stanza. 
The names mean: Hal, "Man"; Dreng, "The Strong"; Holth, 
"The Holder of Land"; Thegn, "Freeman"; Smith, "Craftsman"; 
Breith, "The Broad-Shouldered"; Bondi, "Yeoman"; Bundin- 
skeggi, "With Beard Bound" (i.e., not allowed to hang un- 
kempt) ; Bui, "Dwelling-Owner"; Boddi, "Farm-Holder"; Bratt- 
skegg, "With Beard Carried High" ; Segg, "Man." 

[ 209 ] 

Poetic Edda 

25. Daughters they had, and their names are here : 
Snot, Bruth, Svanni, Svarri, Sprakki, 
Fljoth, Sprund and Vif, Feima, Ristil: 

And thence has risen the yeomen's race. 

26. Thence went Rig, his road was straight, 
A hall he saw, the doors faced south; 

The portal stood wide, on the posts was a ring, 
Then in he fared ; the floor was strewn. 

27. Within two gazed in each other's eyes, 
Fathir and Mothir, and played with their fingers ; 
There sat the house-lord, wound strings for the 

Shafts he fashioned, and bows he shaped. 

28. The lady sat, at her arms she looked. 

She smoothed the cloth, and fitted the sleeves; 
Gay was her cap, on her breast were clasps. 
Broad was her train, of blue was her gown. 

25. No line indicated in the manuscript as beginning a stanza. 
The names mean: Snot, "Worthy Woman"; Bruth, "Bride"; 
Svanni, "The Slender"; Svarri, "The Proud"; Sprakki, "The 
Fair"; Fljoth, "Woman" (?); Sprund, "The Proud"; Vif, 
"Wife" ; Feima, "The Bashful" ; Ristil, "The Graceful." 

26. Many editors make a stanza out of line 4 and lines 1-2 of 
the following stanza. Streixm: with fresh straw in preparation 
for a feast; of. Thrymskvitha, 22. 

27. Fathir and Mothir: Father and Mother. Perhaps lines 3-4 
should form a stanza with 28, 1-2. 

28. Bugge thinks lines 5-6, like 23, 4, got in here from the 
lost stanzas describing Kon's bride and his marriage. 



Her brows were bright, her breast was shining, 
Whiter her neck than new-fallen snow. 

29. Rig knew well wise words to speak, 
Soon in the midst of the room he sat, 
And on either side the others were. 

30. Then Mothir brought a broidered cloth, 

Of linen bright, and the board she covered; 
And then she took the loaves so thin. 
And laid them, white from the wheat, on the 

31. Then forth she brought the vessels full. 
With silver covered, and set before them. 
Meat all browned, and well-cooked birds; 

In the pitcher was wine, of plate were the cups, 
So drank they and talked till the day was gone. 

32. Rig knew well wise words to speak. 
Soon did he rise, made ready to sleep; 
So in the bed himself did he lay, 

And on either side the others were. 

31. The manuscript of lines 1-3 is obviously defective, as 
there are too many words for two lines, and not enough for the 
full three. The meaning, however, is clearly very much as indi- 
cated in the translation. Gering's emendation, which I have fol- 
lowed, consists simply in shifting "set before them" from the 
first line to the second — where the manuscript has no verb, — and 
supplying the verb "brought" in line i. The various editions 
contain all sorts of suggestions. 

32. The manuscript begins both line i and line 2 with a cap- 


Poetic Edda 

33. Thus was he there for three nights long, 
Then forward he went on the midmost way, 
And so nine months were soon passed by. 

34. A son had Mothir, in silk they wrapped him. 
With water they sprinkled him, Jarl he was; 
Blond was his hair, and bright his cheeks, 
Grim as a snake's were his glowing eyes. 

35. To grow in the house did Jarl begin. 

Shields he brandished, and bow-strings wound, 
Bows he shot, and shafts he fashioned, 
Arrows he loosened, and lances wielded, 
Horses he rode, and hounds unleashed, 
Swords he handled, and sounds he swam. 

36. Straight from the grove came striding Rig, 
Rig came striding, and runes he taught him ; 
By his name he called him, as son he claimed him, 

ital preceded by a period, which has led to all sorts of strange 
stanza-combinations and guesses at lost lines in the various edi- 
tions. The confusion includes stanza 33, wherein no line is 
marked in the manuscript as beginning a stanza. 

34. Jarl: "Nobly-Born." 

35. Various lines have been regarded as interpolations, 3 and 
6 being most often thus rejected. 

36. Lines i, 2, and 5 all begin with capitals preceded by 
periods, a fact which, taken in conjunction with the obviously de- 
fective state of the following stanza, has led to all sorts of con- 
jectural emendations. The exact significance of Rig's giving his 
own name to Jarl (cf. stanza 46), and thus recognizing him, 
potentially at least, as a king, depends on the conditions under 




And bade him hold his heritage wide, 
His heritage wide, the ancient homes. 

Forward he rode through the forest dark, 
O'er the frosty crags, till a hall he found. 

38. His spear he shook, his shield he brandished, 

His horse he spurred, with his sword he hewed; 
Wars he raised, and reddened the field. 
Warriors slew he, and land he won. 

39. Eighteen halls ere long did he hold, 
Wealth did he get, and gave to all. 
Stones and jewels and slim-flanked steeds, 
Rings he offered, and arm-rings shared. 

40. His messengers went by the ways so wet. 
And came to the hall where Hersir dwelt ; 
His daughter was fair and slender-fingered, 
Erna the wise the maiden was. 

which the poem was composed (cf. Introductory Note). The 
whole stanza, particularly the reference to the teaching of magic 
(runes), fits Othin far better than Heimdall. 

37. Something- — one or two lines, or a longer passage — has 
clearly been lost, describing the beginning of Jarl's journey. Yet 
many editors, relying on the manuscript punctuation, make 37 
and 3$ into a single stanza. 

39. The manuscript marks both lines i and 2 as beginning 

40. Hersir: "Lord"; the hersir was, in the early days before 
the establishment of a kingdom in Norway, the local chief, and 


Poetic Edda 

41. Her hand they sought, and home they brought 

Wedded to Jarl the veil she wore ; 
Together they dwelt, their joy was great, 
Children they had, and happy they lived. 

42. Bur was the eldest, and Barn the next, 
Joth and Athal, Arfi, Mog, 

Nith and Svein, soon they began — 
Sun and Nithjung — to play and swim ; 
Kund was one, and the youngest Kon. 

43. Soon grew up the sons of Jarl, 

Beasts they tamed, and bucklers rounded, 
Shafts they fashioned, and spears they shook. 

44. But Kon the Young learned runes to use, 
Runes everlasting, the runes of life; 

hence the highest recognized authority. During and after the 
time of Harald the Fair-Haired the name lost something of its 
distinction, the hersir coming to take rank below the jarl. 
Erna: "The Capable." 

42. The names mean: Bur, "Son"; Barn, "Child"; Joth, 
"Child"; Athal, "Offspring"; Arfi, "Heir"; Mog, "Son"; Nith, 
"Descendant" ; Svein, "Boy" ; Sun, "Son" ; Nithjung, "Descend- 
ant"; Kund, "Kinsman"; Kon, "Son" (of noble birth). Concern- 
ing the use made of this last name, see note on stanza 44. It is 
curious that there is no list of the daughters of Jarl and Erna, 
and accordingly Vigf usson inserts here the names listed in stanza 
25. Grundtvig rearranges the lines of stanzas 42 and 43. 

44. The manuscript indicates no line as beginning a stanza. 
Kon the Young: a remarkable bit of fanciful etymology; the 



Soon could he well the warriors shield, 
Dull the swordblade, and still the seas. 

45. Bird-chatter learned he, flames could he lessen, 
Minds could quiet, and sorrows calm ; 

The might and strength of twice four men. 

46. With Rig-Jarl soon the runes he shared, 
More crafty he was, and greater his wisdom ; 
The right he sought, and soon he won it, 
Rig to be called, and runes to know. 

47. Young Kon rode forth through forest and grove, 
Shafts let loose, and birds he lured ; 

There spake a crow on a bough that sat : 
"Why lurest thou, Kon, the birds to come? 

phrase is 'Konr ungr," which could readily be contracted into 
"Konungr," the regular word meaning "king." The "kon" part 
is actually not far out, but the second syllable of "konungr" has 
nothing to do with "ungr" meaning "young." Runes: a long list 
of just such magic charms, dulling swordblades, quenching 
flames, and so on, is given in Hovamol, 147-163. 

45. The manuscript indicates no line as beginning a stanza. 
Minds: possibly "seas," the word being doubtful. Most editors 
assume the gap as indicated. 

46. The manuscript indicates no line as beginning a stanza. 
Rig-Jarl: Kon's father; cf. stanza 36. 

47. This stanza has often been combined with 48, either as a 
whole or in part. Crow: birds frequently play the part of 
mentor in Norse literature; cf., for example, Helgakvitha 
Hundingsbana I, 5, and Fafnismol, 32. 


Poetic Edda 

48. " 'Twere better forth on thy steed to fare, 
and the host to slay. 

49. "The halls of Dan and Danp are noble, 
Greater their wealth than thou hast gained ; 
Good are they at guiding the keel, 
Trying of weapons, and giving of wounds. 

48. This fragment is not indicated as a separate stanza in the 
manuscript. Perhaps half a line has disappeared, or, as seems 
more likely, the gap includes two lines and a half. Sijmons 
actually constructs these lines, largely on the basis of stanzas 
35 and 38. Bugge fills in the half-line lacuna as indicated above 
with "The sword to wield." 

49. Dan and Danp: These names are largely responsible for 
the theory that the Rigsthula was composed in Denmark. 
According to the Latin epitome of the Skjoldungasaga by 
Arngrimur Jonsson, "Rig (Rigus) was a man not the least among 
the great ones of his time. He married the daughter of a certain 
Danp, lord of Danpsted, whose name was Dana ; and later, 
having won the royal title for his province, left as his heir his 
son by Dana, called Dan or Danum, all of whose subjects were 
called Danes." This may or may not be conclusive, and it is a 
great pity that the manuscript breaks off abruptly at this stanza. 



The Poem of Hyndla 

Introductory Note 

The Hyndluljoth is found in neither of the great manuscripts 
of the Poetic Edda, but is included in the so-called Flateyjarbok 
(Book of the Flat Island), an enormous compilation made some- 
where about 1400. The lateness of this manuscript would of 
itself be enough to cast a doubt upon the condition in which the 
poem has been preserved, and there can be no question that 
what we have of it is in very poor shape. It is, in fact, two sep- 
arate poems, or parts of them, clumsily put together. The longer 
one, the Poem of Hyndla proper, is chiefly a collection of names, 
not strictly mythological but belonging to the semi-historical 
hero-sagas of Norse tradition. The wise-woman, Hyndla, being 
asked by Freyja to trace the ancestry of her favorite, Ottar, for 
the purpose of deciding a wager, gives a complex genealogy 
including many of the heroes who appear in the popular sagas 
handed down from days long before the Icelandic settlements. 
The poet was learned, but without enthusiasm; it is not likely 
that he composed the Hyndluljoth much before the twelfth cen- 
tury, though the material of which it is compounded must have 
been very much older. Although the genealogies are essentially 
continental, the poem seems rather like a product of the archaeo- 
logical period of Iceland. 

Inserted bodily in the Hyndluljoth proper is a fragment of 
fifty-one lines, taken from a poem of which, by a curious chance, 
we know the name. Snorri quotes one stanza of it, calling it "the 
short Voluspo." The fragment preserved gives, of course, no indi- 
cation of the length of the original poem, but it shows that it was 
a late and very inferior imitation of the great Voluspo. Like the 
Hyndluljoth proper, it apparently comes from the twelfth cen- 
tury; but there is nothing whatever to indicate that the two poems 
were the work of the same man, or were ever connected in any 
way until some blundering copyist mixed them up. Certainly the 
connection did not exist in the middle of the thirteenth century, 
when Snorri quoted "the short Voluspo." 

Neither poem is of any great value, either as mythology or as 
poetry. The author of "the short Voluspo" seems, indeed, to have 
been more or less confused as to his facts ; and both poets were 


Poetic Edda 

too late to feel anything of the enthusiasm of the earlier school. 
The names of Hyndla's heroes, of course, suggest an unlimited 
number of stories, but as most of these have no direct relation to 
the poems of the Edda, I have limited the notes to a mere record 
of who the persons mentioned were, and the saga>groups in 
which they appeared. 

Freyja spake : 

1. "Maiden, awake! wake thee, my friend, 
My sister Hyndla, in thy hollow cave! 
Already comes darkness, and ride must we 
To Valhall to seek the sacred hall. 

2. "The favor of Heerfather seek we to find, 
To his followers gold he gladly gives; 
To Hermoth gave he helm and mail-coat, 
And to Sigmund he gave a sword as gift. 

1. Freyja: The names of the speakers do not appear in the 
manuscripts. On Freyja cf. Voluspo, 21 and note; Skirnismot, in- 
troductory prose and note; Lokasenna, introductory prose and 
note. As stanzas 9-10 show, Ottar has made a wager of his entire 
inheritance with Angantyr regarding the relative loftiness of 
their ancestry, and by rich offerings (Hyndla hints at less com- 
mendable methods) has induced Freyja to assist him in estab- 
lishing his genealogy. Freyja, having turned Ottar for purposes 
of disguise into a boar, calls on the giantess Hyndla ("She-Dog") 
to aid her. Hyndla does not appear elsewhere in the poems. 

2. Heerfather: Othin; cf. Voluspo, 30. Hermoth: mentioned 
in the Prose Edda as a son of Othin who is sent to Hel to ask 
for the return of the slain Baldr. Sigmund: according to the 
Volsungasaga Sigmund was the son of Volsung, and hence 
Othin's great-great-grandson (note that Wagner eliminates all 
the intervening generations by the simple expedient of using 


f Hyndluljoth 

3. "Triumph to some, and treasure to others, 
To many wisdom and skill in words. 

Fair winds to the sailor, to the singer his art. 
And a manly heart to many a hero. 

4. "Thor shall I honor, and this shall I ask, 
That his favor true mayst thou ever find; 

Though little the brides of the giants he loves. 

"From the stall now one 
And along with my boar 
For slow my boar goes 
And I would not weary 

of thy wolves lead forth, 
shalt thou let him run; 
on the road of the gods, 
my worthy steed." 

Hyndla spake: 
6. "Falsely thou askest me, Freyja, to go. 

For so in the glance of thine eyes I see ; 

Volsung's name as one of Othin's many appellations). Sigmund 
alone was able to draw from the tree the sword which a mys- 
terious stranger (Othin, of course) had thrust into it (compare 
the first act of Wagner's Die Walkure). 

3. Sijmons suggests that this stanza may be an interpolation. 

4. No lacuna after line 2 is indicated in the manuscript. Edi- 
tors have attempted various experiments in rearranging this and 
the following stanza. 

5. Some editors, following Simrock, assign this whole stanza 
to Hyndla; others assign to her lines 3-4. Giving the entire stanza 
to Freyja makes better sense than any other arrangement, but is 
dependent on changing the manuscript's "thy" in line 3 to "my," 
as suggested by Bugge. The boar on which Freyja rides ("my 
worthy steed") is, of course, Ottar. 

6. Hyndla detects Ottar, and accuses Freyja of having her 


Poetic Edda 

On the way of the slain thy lover goes with thee, 
Ottar the young, the son of Instein." 

Freyja spake: 

7. "Wild dreams, methinks, are thine when thou 

My lover is with me on the way of the slain ; 
There shines the boar with bristles of gold, 
Hildisvini, he who was made 
By Dain and Nabbi, the cunning dwarfs. 

8. "Now let us down from our saddles leap. 
And talk of the race of the heroes twain; 
The men who were born of the gods above, 

9. "A wager have made in the foreign metal 
Ottar the young and Angantyr ; 

lover with her. Unless Ottar is identical with 0th (cf. Voluspo, 
25 and note), which seems most unlikely, there is no other ref- 
erence to this love aflFair. The ivay of the slain: the road to 

7. Various experiments have been made in condensing the 
stanza into four lines, or in combining it with stanza 8. Hildi- 
svini ("Battle-Swine") : perhaps Freyja refers to the boar with 
golden bristles given, according to Snorri, to her brother Freyr 
by the dwarfs. Dain: a dwarf; cf. Voluspo, 11. Nabbi: a dwarf 
nowhere else mentioned. 

8. The first line is obviously corrupt in the manuscript, and 
uas been variously emended. The general assumption is that in 
the interval between stanzas 7 and 8 Freyja and Hyndla have 
arrived at Valhall. No lacuna is indicated in the manuscript. 

9. Foreign metal: gold. The word valr, meaning "foreign," 



We must guard, for the hero young to have, 
His father's wealth, the fruits of his race. 

10. "For me a shrine of stones he made, — 
And now to glass the rock has grown; — 
Oft with the blood of beasts was it red; 
In the goddesses ever did Ottar trust. 

11. "Tell to me now the ancient names. 

And the races of all that were born of old : 
Who are of the Skjoldungs, who of the Skilfings, 
Who of the Othlings, who of the Ylfings, 
Who are the free-born, who are the high-bom, 
The noblest of men that in Mithgarth dwell?" 

and akin to "Welsh," is interesting in this connection, and some 
editors interpret it frankly as "Celtic," i.e., Irish. 

10. To glass: i.e., the constant fires on the altar have fused 
the stone into glass. Glass beads, etc., were of very early use, 
though the use of glass for windows probably did not begin in 
Iceland much before 1200. 

11. Possibly two stanzas, or perhaps one with interpolations. 
The manuscript omits the first half of line 4, here filled out from 
stanza 16, line 2. Skjoldungs: the descendants of Skjold, a myth- 
ical king who was Othin's son and the ancestor of the Danish 
kings; cf. Snorri's Edda, Skaldskaparmal, 43. Skilfings: mentioned 
by Snorri as descendants of King Skelfir, a mythical ruler in "the 
East." In Grimnismol, 54, the name Skilfing appears as one of 
Othin's many appellations. Othlings: Snorri derives this race from 
Authi, the son of Half dan the Old (cf. stanza 14). Ylfings: some 
editors have changed this to "Ynglings," as in stanza 16, referring 
to the descendants of Yng or Yngvi, another son of Halfdan, but 
the reference may be to the same mythical family to which Helgi 
Hundingsbane belonged (cf. Helgakvitha Hundingsbana I, 5). 


Poetic Edda 

Hyndla spake: 

12. "Thou art, Ottar, the son of Instein, 
And Instein the son of Alf the Old, 
Alf of Ulf, Ulf of Safari, 

And Sasfari's father was Svan the Red. 

13. "Thy mother, bright with bracelets fair, 
Hight, methinks, the priestess Hledis; 
Frothi her father, and Friaut her mother; — 
Her race of the mightiest men must seem. 

14. "Of old the noblest of all was Ali, 

Before him Halfdan, foremost of Skjoldungs ; 

Famed were the battles the hero fought, 

To the corners of heaven his deeds were carried. 

15. "Strengthened by Eymund, the strongest of men, 
Sigtrygg he slew with the ice-cold sword; 

His bride was Almveig, the best of women, 
And eighteen boys did Almveig bear him. 

12. Instein: mentioned in the Halfssaga as one of the war- 
riors of King Half of Horthaland (the so-called Halfsrekkar). 
The others mentioned in this stanza appear in one of the later 
mythical accounts of the settlement of Norway. 

14. Stanzas 14-16 are clearly interpolated, as Friaut (stanza 
13, line 3) is the daughter of Hildigun (stanza 17, line i). 
Halfdan the Old, a mythical king of Denmark, called by Snorri 
"the most famous of all kings," of whom it was foretold that 
"for three hundred years there should be no woman and no man 
in his line who was not of great repute." After the slaying of 
Sigtrygg he married Almveig (or Alvig), daughter of King 
Eymund of Holmgarth (i.e., Russia), who bore him eighteen 

[ 222 ] 


1 6. "Hence come the Skjoldungs, hence the Skilfings, 
Hence the Othlings, hence the Ynglings, 
Hence come the free-born, hence the high-born, 
The noblest of men that in Mithgarth dwell: 
And all are thy kinsmen, Ottar, thou fool! 

1 7. "Hildigun then her mother hight, 
The daughter of Svava and Saekonung; 
And all are thy kinsmen, Ottar, thou fool! 

It is much to know, — wilt thou hear yet more? 

18. "The mate of Dag was a mother of heroes, 
Thora, who bore him the bravest of fighters, 
Frathmar and Gyrth and the Frekis twain, 
Am and Jofurmar, Alf the Old ; 

It is much to know, — wilt thou hear yet more? 

19. "Her husband was Ketil, the heir of Klypp, 
He was of thy mother the mother's-father; 

sons, nine at one birth. These nine were all slain, but the other 
nine were traditionally the ancestors of the most famous families 
in Northern hero lore. 

16. Compare stanza 11. All or part of this stanza may be 

17. Hildigun (or Hildiguth) : with this the poem returns to 
Ottar's direct ancestry, Hildigun being Friaut's mother. Line 4.: 
cf. the refrain-line in the Voluspo (stanzas 27, 29, etc.). 

18. Another interpolation, as Ketil (stanza 19, line i) is the 
husband of Hildigun (stanza 17). Dag: one of Halfdan's sons, 
and ancestor of the iDoglings. Line 5 may be a late addition. 

19. Ketil: the semi-mythical Ketil Hortha-Kari, from whom 
various Icelandic families traced their descent. Hoalf: probably 
King Half of Horthaland, hero of the Halfssaga, and son of 
Hjorleif and Hild (cf. stanza 12. note). 

[ 223 ] 

Poetic Edda 

Before the days of Kari was Frothi, 
And horn of Hild was Hoalf then. 

20. "Next was Nanna, daughter of Nokkvi, 
Thy father's kinsman her son became; 
Old is the line, and longer still, 

And all are thy kinsmen, Ottar, thou fool! 

21. "Isolf and Osolf, the sons of Olmoth, 

Whose wife was Skurhild, the daughter of Skek- 

Count them among the heroes mighty, 
And all are thy kinsmen, Ottar, thou fool ! 

22. "Gunnar the Bulwark, Grim the Hardy, 
Thorir the Iron-shield, Ulf the Gaper, 
Brodd and Horvir both did I know; 

In the household they were of Hrolf the Old. 

20. Nanna: the manuscript has "Manna." Of Nanna and her 
father, Nokkvi, we know nothing, but apparently Nanna's son 
married a sister of Instein, Ottar's father. 

21. Olmoth: one of the sons of Ketil Hortha-Kari. Line 4: 
here, and generally hereafter when it appears in the poena, this 
refrain-line is abbreviated in the manuscript to the word "all." 

22. An isolated stanza, which some editors place after stanza 
24, others combining lines 1-2 with the fragmentary stanza 23. 
In the manuscript lines 3-4 stand after stanza 24, where they fail 
to connect clearly with anything. Hrolf the Old: probably King 
Hrolf Gautreksson of Gautland, in the saga relating to whom 
{Fornaldar sogur III, 57 ff.) appear the names of Thorir the 
Iton-shield and Grim Thorkelsson. 



23. "Hervarth, Hjorvarth, Hrani, Angantyr, 
Bui and Brami, Barri and Reifnir, 

Tind and Tyrfing, the Haddings twain, — 
And all are thy kinsmen, Ottar, thou fool! 

24. "Eastward in Bolm were boin of old 
The sons of Arngrim and Eyfura; 
With berserk-tumult and baleful deed 
Like fire o'er land and sea they fared, — 
And all are thy kinsmen, Ottar, thou fool! 

25. "The sons of Jormunrek all of yore 

To the gods in death were as offerings given ; 

23. Stanzas 23 and 24 name the twelve Berserkers, the sons of 
Arngrim and Eyfura, the story of whom is told in the Hervarar- 
saga and the Orvar-Oddssaga. Saxo Grammaticus tells of the 
battle between them and Hjalmar and Orvar-Odd. Line i does 
not appear in the manuscript, but is added from the list of names 
given in the sagas. The Berserkers were wild warriors, distin- 
guished above all by the fits of frenzy to which they were subject 
in battle; during these fits they howled like wild beasts, foamed 
at the mouth, and gnawed the iron rims of their shields. At such 
times they were proof against steel or fire, but when the fever 
abated they were weak. The etymology of the word berserk is 
disputed ; probably, however, it means "bear-shirt." 

24- The manuscript omits the first half of line i, here supplied 
from the Orvar-Oddssaga. Bolm: probably the island of Bolmso, 
in the Swedish province of Smaland. In the manuscript and in 
most editions stanza 24 is followed by lines 3-4 of stanza 22. 
Some editors reject line 5 as spurious. 

25. In the manuscript line i stands after line 4 of stanza 29. 
Probably a stanza enumerating Jormunrek's sons has been lost. 
Many editors combine lines 3-4 of stanza 22 and lines 2-4 of 


Poetic Edda 

He was kinsman of Sigurth, — hear well what 1 

The foe of hosts, and Fafnir's slayer. 

26.. "From Volsung's seed ,was the hero sprung, 
And Hjordis was born of Pirauthung's race, 
And Eylimi from the Othlings came, — 
And all are thy kinsmen, Ottar, thou fool! 

27. "Gunnar and Hogni, the heirs of Gjuki, 
And Guthrun as well, who their sister was; 
But Gotthorm was not of Gjuki's race, 
Although the brother of both he was: 
And all are thy kinsmen, Ottar, thou fool! 

stanza 25 into one stanza. Jormunrek: the historical Ermanarich, 
king of the Goths, who died about 376. According to Norse tra- 
dition, in which Jormunrek played a large part, he slew his own 
sons (cf. Guthrunarhvot and Hamthesmol). In the saga Jormun- 
rek married Sigurth's daughter, Svanhild. Stanzas 25-27 con- 
nect Ottar's descent with the whole Volsung-Sigurth-Jormunrek- 
Gjuki genealogy. The story of Sigurth is the basis for most of 
the heroic poems of the Edda, of the famous Volsungasaga, and, 
in Germany, of the Nibelungenlied. On his battle with the dragon 
Fafnir cf. Fafnismol. 

26. Volsung: Sigurth's grandfather and Othin's great-grand- 
son. Hjordis: daughter of King Eylimi, wife of Sigmund and 
mother of Sigurth. Othlings: cf. stanza 11. 

27. Gunnar, Hogni, and Guthrun: the three children of the 
Burgundian king Gjuki and his wife Grimhild (Kriemhild) ; 
Guthrun was Sigurth's wife. Gotthorm, the third brother, who 
killed Sigurth at Brynhild's behest, was Grimhild's son, and thus 
a step-son of Gjuki. These four play an important part in the 
heroic cycle of Eddie poems. Cf. Gripisspo, introductory note. 



28. "Of Hvethna's sons was Haki the best, 

And Hjorvarth the father of Hvethna was; 

29. "Harald Battle-tooth of Auth was born, 
Hrorek the Ring-giver her husband was; 
Auth the Deep-minded was Ivar's daughter, 
But Rathbarth the father of Randver was: 
And all are thy kinsmen, Ottar, thou fool!" 

Fragment of "The Short Voluspo" 
30. Eleven in number the gods were known, 

When Baldr o'er the hill of death was bowed ; 
And this to avenge was Vali swift. 
When his brother's slayer soon he slew. 

28. In the manuscript and in many editions these two lines 
stand between stanzas 33 and 34. The change here made follows 
Bugge. The manuscript indicates no gap between stanzas 27 and 
29. Hvethna: wife of King Half dan of Denmark. 

29. The manuscript and many editions include line i of stanza 
25 after line 4 of stanza 29. The story of Harald Battle-tooth is 
told in detail by Saxo Grammaticus. Harald's father was Hrorek, 
king of Denmark; his mother was Auth, daughter of Ivar, king 
of Sweden. After Ivar had treacherously detroyed Hrorek, Auth 
fled with Harald to Russia, where she married King Rathbarth. 
Harald's warlike career in Norway, and his death on the Bra- 
valla-field at the hands of his nephew, Sigurth Ring, son of 
Randver and grandson of Rathbarth and Auth, were favorite 
saga themes. 

30. At this point begins the fragmentary and interpolated 
"short Voluspo" identified by Snorri. The manuscript gives no 
indication of the break in the poem's continuity. Eleven: there 


Poetic Edda 

31. The father of Baldr was the heir of Bur, 

32. Freyr's wife was Gerth, the daughter of Gymir, 
Of the giants' brood, and Aurbotha bore her; 
To these as well was Thjazi kin, 

The dark-loving giant; his daughter was Skathi. 

33. Much have I told thee, and further will tell ; 
There is much that I know; — wilt thou hear 

yet more? 

34. Heith and Hrossthjof, the children of Hrimnir. 

are various references to the "twelve" gods (including Baldr) ; 
Snorri {Gylfaginning, 20-33) lists the following twelve in addi- 
tion to Othin: Thor, Baldr, Njorth, Freyr, Tyr, Bragi, Heimdall, 
Hoth, Vithar, Vali, Ull and Forseti; he adds Loki as of doubtful 
divinity. Baldr and Vali: cf. Voluspo, 32-33. 

31. The fragmentary stanzas 31-34 have been regrouped in 
various ways, and with many conjectures as to omissions, none 
of which are indicated in the manuscript. The order here is as 
in the manuscript, except that lines 1-2 of stanza 28 have been 
transposed from after line 2 of stanza 33. Bur's heir: Othin; cf. 
Voluspo, 4, 

32. Freyr, Gerth, Gymir: cf. Skirnismol. Aurbotha: a giantess, 
mother of Gerth. Thjazi and Skathi: cf. Lokasenna, 49, and Har- 
barthsljoth, 19. 

33. Cf. Voluspo, 44 and 27. 

Z^. Heith ("Witch") and Hrossthjof ("Horse-thief"): the 
only other reference to the giant Hrimnir {Skirnismol, 28) makes 
no mention of his children. 



35. The sybils arose from Vitholf's race, 
From Vilmeith all the seers are, 

And the workers of charms are Svarthof thi's chil- 
And from Ymir sprang the giants all. 

36. Much have I told thee, and further will tell; 
There is much that I know; — wilt thou hear 

yet more? 

37. One there was born in the bygone days, 

Of the race of the gods, and great was his might; 
Nine giant women, at the world's edge, 
Once bore the man so mighty in arms. 

38. Gjolp there bore him, Greip there bore him, 
Eistla bore him, and Eyrgjafa, 

Ulfrun bore him, and Angeyja, 
Imth and Atla, and Jarnsaxa. 

35. This stanza is quoted by Snorri {Gylfaginning, 5). Of 
Vitholf ("Forest Wolf"), yilmeith ("Wish-Tree") and Svart- 
hoftlii ("Black Head") nothing further is icnown. Ymir: cf. 
Voluspo, 3. 

37. According to Snorri {Gylfaginning, 27) Heimdall was 
the son of Othin and of nine sisters. As Heimdall was the watch- 
man of the gods, this has given rise to much "solar myth" dis- 
cussion. The names of his nine giantess mothers are frequently 
said to denote attributes of the sea. 

38. The names of Heimdall's mothers may be rendered 
"Yelper," "Griper," "Foamer," "Sand-Strewer," "She-Wolf," 
"Sorrow-Whelmer," "Dusk," "Fury," and "Iron-Sword." 

[ 229 ] 

Poetic Edda 

39. Strong was he made with the strength of earth, 
With the ice-cold sea, and the blood of swine. 

40. One there was bom, the best of all, 

And strong was he made with the strength of 

earth ; 
The proudest is called the kinsman of men 
Of the rulers all throughout the world. 

41. Much have I told thee, and further will tell; 
There is much that I know; — wilt thou hear 

yet more? 

42. The wolf did Loki with Angrbotha win. 
And Sleipnir bore he to Svathilfari ; 
The worst of marvels seemed the one 

That sprang from the brother of Byleist then. 

39. It has been suggested that these lines were interpolated 
fronn Guthrunark<vitha II, 22. Some editors add the refrain of 
stanza 36. Sivine's blood: to Heimdall's strength drawn from 
earth and sea was added that derived from sacrifice. 

40. In the manuscript this stanza stands after stanza 44. Re- 
garding Heimdall's kinship to the three great classes of men, of. 
Rigsthula, introductory note, wherein the apparent confusion of 
his attributes with those of Othin is discussed. 

42. Probably a lacuna before this stanza. Regarding the wolf 
Fenrir, born of Loki and the giantess Angrbotha, cf. Voluspo, 
39 and note. Sleipnir: Othin's eight-legged horse, born of the 
stallion Svathilfari and of Loki in the guise of a mare (cf. 
Grimnismol, 44). The worst: doubtless referring to Mithgarths- 
orm, another child of Loki. The brother of Byleist: Loki; cf. 
Voluspo, 51. 

[ 230 ] 


43. A heart ate Loki, — in the embers it lay, 

And half-cooked found he the woman's heart; — 
With child from the woman Lopt soon was, 
And thence among men came the monsters all. 

44. The sea, storm-driven, seeks heaven itself. 
O'er the earth it flows, the air grows sterile ; 
Then follow the snows and the furious winds, 
For the gods are doomed, and the end is death. 

45. Then comes another, a greater than all. 
Though never I dare his name to speak ; 
Few are they now that farther can see 

Than the moment when Othin shall meet the 


* * » 

Freyja spake: 

46. "To my boar now bring the memory-beer, 

So that all thy words, that well thou hast spoken, 

43. Nothing further is known of the myth here referred to, 
wherein Loki (Lopt) eats the cooked heart of a woman and thus 
himself gives birth to a monster. The reference is not likely to be 
to the serpent, as, according to Snorri {Gylfaginning, 34), the 
wolf, the serpent, and Hel were all the children of Loki and 

44. Probably an omission, perhaps of considerable length, 
before this stanza. For the description of the destruction of the 
world, cf. Voluspo, 57. 

45. Cf. Voluspo, 65, where the possible reference to Chris- 
tianity is noted. With this stanza the fragmentary "short Voluspo" 
ends, and the dialogue between Freyja and Hyndla continues. 

46. Freyja now admits the identity of her boar as Ottar, who 


Poetic Edda 

The third mom hence he may hold in mind, 
When their races Ottar and Angantyr tell." 

Hyndla spake: 

47. "Hence shalt thou fare, for fain would I sleep, 
From me thou gettest few favors good ; 

My noble one, out in the night thou leapest 
As Heithrun goes the goats among. 

48. "To Oth didst thou run, who loved thee ever, 
And many under thy apron have crawled; 
My noble one, out in the night thou leapest. 
As Heithrun goes the goats among." 

Freyja spake: 

49. "Around the giantess flames shall I raise, 

So that forth unburned thou mayst not fare." 

with the help of the "memory-beer" is to recall the entire gene- 
alogy he has just heard, and thus win his wager with Angantyr. 

47. Heithrun: the she-goat that stands by Valhall (cf. Grim- 
nismol, 25), the name being here used simply of she-goats in 
general, in caustic comment on Freyja's morals. Of these Loki 
entertained a similar view; cf. Lokasenna, 30. 

48. Oth: cf. stanza 6 and note, and Voluspo, 25 and note. 
Lines 3-4, abbreviated in the manuscript, are very likely repeated 
here by mistake. 

49. The manuscript repeats once again lines 3-4 of stanza 47 
as the last two lines of this stanza. It seems probable that two 
lines have been lost, to the effect that Freyja will burn the 
giantess alive "If swiftly now thou dost not seek, / And 
hither bring the memory-beer." 



Hyndla spake: 

50. "Flames I see burning, the earth is on fire, 
And each for his life the price must lose; 
Bring then to Ottar the draught of beer, 
Of venom full for an evil fate." 

Freyja spake : 

51. "Thine evil words shall work no ill, 
Though, giantess, bitter thy baleful threats; 
A drink full fair shall Ottar find, 

If of all the gods the favor I get." 



The Ballad of Svipdag 

Introductory Note 
The two poems, Grougaldr ( Groa's Spell) and Fjolsvinnsmol 
(the Ballad of Fjolsvith), which many editors have, very wisely, 
united under the single title of Svipdag smol, are found only in 
paper manuscripts, none of them antedating the seventeenth cen- 
tury. Everything points to a relatively late origin for the poems: 
their extensive use of "kennings" or poetical circumlocutions, their 
romantic spirit, quite foreign to the character of the unquestion- 
ably older poems, the absence of any reference to them in the 
earlier documents, the frequent errors in mythology, and, finally, 
the fact that the poems appear to have been preserved in unusu- 
ally good condition. Whether or not a connecting link of narra- 
tive verse joining the two parts has been lost is an open question; 
on the whole it seems likely that the story was sufficiently well 
known so that the reciter of the poem (or poems) merely filled 
in the gap with a brief prose summary in pretty much his 
own words. The general relationship between dialogue and 
narrative in the Eddie poems is discussed in the introductory 
note to the Grimnismol, in connection with the use of prose 

The love story of Svipdag and Mengloth is not referred to 
elsewhere in the Poetic Edda, nor does Snorri mention it; how- 
ever, Groa, who here appears as Svipdag's mother, is spoken of 
by Snorri as a wise woman, the wife of Orvandil, who helps 
Thor with her magic charms. On the other hand, the essence of 
the story, the hero's winning of a bride ringed about by flames, 
is strongly suggestive of parts of the Sigurth-Brynhild traditions. 
Whether or not it is to be regarded as a nature or solar myth 
depends entirely on one's view of the whole "solar myth" school 
of criticism, not so highly esteemed today as formerly; such an 
interpretation is certainly not necessary to explain what is, under 
any circumstances, a very charming romance told, in the main, 
with dramatic effectiveness. 

In later years the story of Svipdag and Mengloth became pop- 
ular throughout the North, and was made the subject of many 
Danish and Swedish as well as Norwegian ballads. These have 
greatly assisted in the reconstruction of the outlines of the narra- 
tive surrounding the dialogue poems here given. 



Groa's Spell 
Svipdag spake : 

1. "Wake thee, Groa! wake, mother good! 

At the doors of the dead I call thee; 
Thy son, bethink thee, thou badst to seek 
Thy help at the hill of death." 

Groa spake: 

2. "What evil vexes mine only son. 

What baleful fate hast thou found, 
That thou callest thy mother, who lies in the 
And the world of the living has left?" 

Svipdag spake: 

3. "The woman false whom my father embraced 

Has brought me a baleful game; 
For she bade me go forth where none may fare, 
And Mengloth the maid to seek." 

Groa spake: 

4. "Long is the way, long must thou wander, 

But long is love as well ; 
Thou mayst find, perchance, what thou fain 
wouldst have. 
If the fates their favor will give." 

1. Svipdag ("Swift Day") : the names of the speakers are 
lacking in the manuscripts. 

3. The iwoman: Svipdag's stepmother, who is responsible for 


Poetic Edda 

Svipdag spake: 

5. "Charms full good then chant to me, mother, 

And seek thy son to guard; 
For death do I fear on the way I shall fare, 
And in years am I young, methinks." 

Groa spake: 

6. "Then first I will chant thee the charm oft-tried, 

That Rani taught to Rind ; 
From the shoulder whate'er mislikes thee shake. 
For helper thyself shalt thou have. 

7. "Then next I will chant thee, if needs thou must 

And wander a purposeless way: 
The bolts of Urth shall on every side 
Be thy guards on the road thou goest. 

8. "Then third I will chant thee, if threatening 

The danger of death shall bring: 

his search for Mengloth ("Necklace-Glad"). This name has sug- 
gested that Mengloth is really Frigg, possessor of the famous 
Brisings' necklace, or else Freyja (cf. Lokasenna, 20, note). 

6. For this catalogue of charms (stanzas 6-14) cf. the Ljotha- 
tal {Hovamol, 147-165). Rani and Rind: the manuscripts have 
these words in inverse relation; I have followed Neckel's emen- 
dation. Rind was the giantess who became the mother of Vali, 
Othin's son, the one-night-old avenger of Baldr (cf. Voluspo, 
33-34, and Baldrs Draumar, 11 and note). Rani is presumably 
Othin, who, according to a skaldic poem, won Rind by magic. 

7. Urth: one of the three Norns, or Fates; cf. Voluspo, 20. 



Yet to Hel shall turn both Horn and Ruth, 
And before thee the waters shall fail. 

9. "Then fourth I will chant thee, if come thy foes 
On the gallows-way against thee: 
Into thine hands shall their hearts be given, 
And peace shall the warriors wish. 

10. "Then fifth I will chant thee, if fetters perchance 

Shall bind thy bending limbs: 
O'er thy thighs do I chant a loosening-charm, 
And the lock is burst from the limbs, 
And the fetters fall from the feet. 

11. "Then sixth I will chant thee, if storms on the sea 

Have might unknown to man : 
Yet never shall wind or wave do harm, 
And calm is the course of thy boat. 

12. "Then seventh I chant thee, if frost shall seek 

To kill thee on lofty crags: 
The fatal cold shall not grip thy flesh. 
And whole thy body shall be. 

8. Horn and Ruth: these two rivers, here used merely to sym- 
bolize all dangerous streams, are not included in the catalogue 
of rivers given in Grimnismol, 27-29, for which reason some 
editors have changed the names to Hron and Hrith. 

to. This stanza is a close parallel to Hovamol, 150, and the 
fifth line may well be an interpolation from line 4 of that stanza. 

[ 237 ] 

Poetic Edda 

13. "Then eighth will I chant thee, if ever by night 

Thou shalt wander on murky ways : 
Yet never the curse of a Christian woman 
From the dead shall do thee harm. 

14. "Then ninth will I chant thee, if needs thou must 

With a warlike giant in words: 
Thy heart good store of wit shall have, 
And thy mouth of words full wise. 

15. "Now fare on the way where danger waits, 

Let evils not lessen thy love! 
I have stood at the door of the earth-fixed stones, 
The while I chanted thee charms. 

16. "Bear hence, my son, what thy mother hath said, 

And let it live in thy breast; 
Thine ever shall be the best of fortune. 
So long as my words shall last." 

13. A dead Christian ivoman: this passage has distressed 
many editors, who have sought to emend the text so as to make 
it mean simply "a dead witch." The fact seems to be, however, 
that this particular charm was composed at a time when Chris- 
tians were regarded by all conservative pagans as emissaries of 
darkness. A dead woman's curse would naturally be more potent, 
whether she was Christian or otherwise, than a living one's. 
Presumably this charm is much older than the poem in which it 
here stands. 

16. At this point Groa's song ends, and Svipdag, thus fortified, 
goes to seek Mengloth. All the link that is needed between the 
poems is approximately this: "Then Svipdag searched long for 




The Lay of Fjolsvith 

17. Before the house he beheld one coming 

To the home of the giants high. 

Svipdag spake: 
"What giant is here, in front of the house, 
And around him fires are flaming?" 

Fjolsvith spake: 

1 8. "What seekest thou here ? for what is thy search ? 

What, friendless one, fain wouldst thou know? 
By the ways so wet must thou wander hence, 
For, weakling, no home hast thou here." 

Svipdag spake: 

19. "What giant is here, in front of the house, 

To the wayfarer welcome denying?" 

Mengloth, and at last he came to a great house set all about 
with flames. And before the house there was a giant." 

17. Most editors have here begun a new series of stanza 
numbers, but if the Grougaldr and the Fjolsvinnsmol are to be 
considered as a single poem, it seems more reasonable to continue 
the stanza numbers consecutively. Bugge thinks a stanza has 
been lost before 17, including Fjolsvith's name, so that the "he" 
in line i might have something to refer to. However, just such a 
prose link as I have suggested in the note on stanza 16 would 
serve the purpose. Editors have suggested various rearrange- 
ments in the lines of stanzas 17-19. The substance, however, is 
clear enough. The giant Fjolsvith ("Much-Wise"), the warder 
of the house in which Mengloth dwells, sees Svipdag coming and 
stops him with the customary threats. The assignment of the 


Poetic Edda 

Fjolsvith spake: 
"Greeting full fair thou never shalt find, 
So hence shalt thou get thee home. 

20. "Fjolsvith am I, and wise am I found, 

But miserly am I with meat; 
Thou never shalt enter within the house, — 
Go forth like a wolf on thy way !" 

Svipdag spake: 

21. "Few from the joy of their eyes will go forth, 

When the sight of their loves they seek ; 
Full bright are the gates of the golden hall, 
And a home shall I here enjoy." 

Fjolsvith spake: 

22. "Tell me now, fellow, what father thou hast, 

And the kindred of whom thou camst." 

Svipdag spake: 
"Vindkald am I, and Varkald's son, 
And Fjolkald his father was. 

23. "Now answer me, Fjolsvith, the question I ask, 

For now the truth would I know : 

speeches in stanzas 17-20, in the absence of any indications in 
the manuscripts, is more or less guesswork. 

22. Vindkald ("Wind-Cold"), Varkald ("Cold of Early 
Spring") and Fjolkald ("Much Cold") : Svipdag apparently 
seeks to persuade Fjolsvith that he belongs to the frost giants. 



Who is it that holds and has for his own 
The rule of the hall so rich?" 

Fjolsvith spake: 

24. "Mengloth is she, her mother bore her 

To the son of Svafrthorin; 
She is it that holds and has for her own 
The rule of the hall so rich." 

Svipdag spake: 

25. "Now answer me, Fjolsvith, the question I ask, 

For now the truth would I know : 
What call they the gate? for among the gods 
Ne'er saw man so grim a sight." 

Fjolsvith spake: 

26. "Thrymgjol they call it ; 'twas made by the three, 

The sons of Solblindi ; 
And fast as a fetter the farer it holds, 
Whoever shall hft the latch." 

Svipdag spake: 

27. "Now answer me, Fjolsvith, the question I ask, 

For now the truth would I know : 

24. Svafrthorin: who he was, or what his name means, or 
who his son was, are all unknown. 

26. Thrymgjol ("Loud-Clanging") : this gate, like the gate of 
the dead, shuts so fast as to trap those who attempt to use it (cf. 
Sigurtharkvitha en skamma, 68 and note). It was made by the 
dwarfs, sons of Solblindi ("Sun-Blinded"), the traditional crafts- 
men, who could not endure the light of day. 

[ 241 ] 

Poetic Edda 

What call they the house ? for no man beheld 
'Mongst the gods so grim a sight." 

Fjolsvith spake: 

28. "Gastropnir is it, of old I made it 

From the limbs of Leirbrimir; 
I braced it so strongly that fast it shall stand 
So long as the world shall last." 

Svipdag spake'. 

29. "Now answer me, Fjolsvith, the question I ask, 

For now the truth would I know : 
What call they the tree that casts abroad 
Its limbs o'er every land?" 

Fjolsvith spake: 

30. "Mimameith its name, and no man knows 

What root beneath it runs; 
And few can guess what shall fell the tree. 
For fire nor iron shall fell it." 

Svipdag spake: 

31. "Now answer me, Fjolsvith, the question I ask, 

For now the truth would I know: 

28. Gastropnir: "Guest-Crusher." Leirbrimir's ("Clay- 
Giant's") limbs: a poetic circumlocution for "clay"; cf. the de- 
scription of the making of earth from the body of the giant Ymir, 
Vafthruthnismol, 21. 

30. Mimameith ("Mimir's Tree") : the ash Yggdrasil, that 
overshadows the whole world. The well of Mimir was situated 
at its base; cf. Voluspo, 27-29. 



What grows from the seed of the tree so great, 
That fire nor iron shall fell ?" 

Fjolsvith spake: 

32. "Women, sick with child, shall seek 

Its fruit to the flames to bear ; 
Then out shall come what within was hid. 
And so is it mighty with men." 

Svipdag spake: 

33. "Now answer me, Fjolsvith, the question I ask, 

For now the truth would I know: 
What cock is he on the highest bough. 
That glitters all with gold ?" 

Fjolsvith spake: 

34. "Vithofnir his name, and now he shines 

Like lightning on Mimameith's limbs ; 
And great is the trouble with which he grieves 
Both Surt and Sinmora." 

32. Gering suggests that two stanzas have been lost between 
stanzas 15 and 16, but the giant's answer fits the question quite 
well enough. The fruit of Yggdrasil, when cooked, is here 
assumed to have the power of assuring safe childbirth, 

34. Vithofnir ("Tree-Snake") : apparently identical with 
either the cock Gollinkambi (cf. Voluspo, 43) or Fjalar (cf. 
Voluspo, 42), the former of which wakes the gods to battle, and 
the latter the giants. Surt: the giant mentioned in Voluspo, 52, 
as ruler of the fire-world; here used to represent the giants in 
general, who are constantly in terror of the cock's eternal watch- 
fulness. Sinmora: presumably Surt's wife, the giantess who pos- 
sesses the weapon by which alone the cock Vithofnir may be slain. 

[ 243 ] 

Poetic Edda 

Svipdag spake: 

35. "Now answer me, Fjolsvith, the question I ask, 

For now the truth would I know : 
What call they the hounds, that before the house 
So fierce and angry are?" 

Fjolsvith spake: 

36. "Gif call they one, and Geri the other, 

If now the truth thou wouldst know; 
Great they are, and their might will grow, 
Till the gods to death are doomed." 

Svipdag spake: 

37. "Now answer me, Fjolsvith, the question I ask. 

For now the truth would I know : 
May no man hope the house to enter. 
While the hungry hounds are sleeping?" 

Fjolsvith spake: 

38. "Together they sleep not, for so was it fixed 

When the guard to them was given; 
One sleeps by night, the next by day, 
So no man may enter ever." 

Svipdag spake: 

39. "Now answer me, Fjolsvith, the question I ask, 

For now the truth would I know: 

35. The last two lines have been variously emended. 

36. Gif and Geri: both names signify "Greedy." The first 
part of line 3 is conjectural; the manuscripts indicate the word 
"eleven," which clearly fails to make sense. 



Is there no meat that men may give them, 
And leap within while they eat?" 

Fjolsvith spake: 

40. "Two wing-joints there be in Vithofnir's body, 

If now the truth thou wouldst know; 
That alone is the meat that men may give them, 
And leap within while they eat." 

Svipdag spake: 

41. "Now answer me, Fjolsvith, the question I ask. 

For now the truth would I know : 
What weapon can send Vithofnir to seek 
The house of Hel below?" 

Fjolsvith spake: 

42. "Lasvatein is there, that Lopt with runes 

Once made by the doors of death ; 
In Laegjarn's chest by Sinmora lies it, 
And nine locks fasten it firm." 

Svipdag spake: 

43. "Now answer me, Fjolsvith, the question I ask. 

For now the truth would I know : 
May a man come thence who thither goes, 
And tries the sword to take ?" 

42. Lavrtein ("Wounding Wand") : the manuscripts differ as 
to the form of this name. The suggestion that the reference is to 
the mistletoe with which Baldr was killed seems hardly reason- 
able. Lopi: Loki. Lagjarn ("Lover of 111") : Loki ; cf. Voluspo, 35, 


Poetic Edda 

Fjolsvith spake: 

44. "Thence may he come who thither goes, 

And tries the sword to take, 
If with him he carries what few can win. 
To give to the goddess of gold." 

Svtpdag spake: 

45. "Now answer me, Fjolsvith, the question I ask, 

For now the truth would I know : 
What treasure is there that men may take 
To rejoice the giantess pale?" 

Fjolsvith spake: 

46. "The sickle bright in thy wallet bear. 

Mid Vithofnir's feathers found ; 
To Sinmora give it, and then shall she grant 
That the weapon by thee be won." 

Svtpdag spake: 

47. "Now answer me, Fjolsvith, the question I ask, 

For now the truth would I know : 
What call they the hall, encompassed here 
With flickering magic flames?" 

where the term appears as an adjective applied to Loki. This is 
Falk's emendation for the manuscripts' "Saegjarn," meaning "Sea 
Lover." Sinmora: cf. stanza 34. 

44 Goddess of gold: poetic circumlocution for "woman," 
here meaning Sinmora. 

46. Sickle: i.e., tail feather. With this the circle of impossi- 
bilities is completed. To get past the dogs, they must be fed with 
the wing-joints of the cock Vithofnir; the cock can be killed only 



Fjolsvith spake: 

48. "Lyr is it called, and long it shall 

On the tip of a spear-point tremble ; 
Of the noble house mankind has heard, 
But more has it never known." 

Svipdag spake: 

49. "Now answer me, Fjolsvith, the question I ask. 

For now the truth would I know : 
What one of the gods has made so great 
The hall I behold within?" 

Fjolsvith spake: 

50. "Uni and Iri, Bari and Jari, 

Var and Vegdrasil, 
Dori and Ori, Delling, and there 
Was Loki, the fear of the folk." 

with the sword in Sinraora's possession, and Sinmora will give up 
the sword only in return for the tail feather of the cock. 

48. Lyr ("Heat-Holding") : just what the spear-point refer- 
ence means is not altogether clear. Presumably it refers to the 
way in which the glowing brightness of the lofty hall makes it 
seem to quiver and turn in the air, but the tradition, never 
baffled by physical laws, may have actually balanced the whole 
building on a single point to add to the difficulties of entrance. 

50. Loki, the one god named, was the builder of the hall, with 
the aid of the nine dwarfs. Jari, Dori, and Ori appear in the 
Voluspo catalogue of the dwarfs (stanzas 13 and 15) ; Delling 
appears in Hovamol, 161, and Vafthrut finis mol, 25, in the latter 
case, however, the name quite possibly referring to some one 
else. The other dwarfs' names do not appear elsewhere. The 
manuscripts differ as to the forms of many of these names. 


Poetic Edda 

Svipdag spake: 

51. "Now answer me, Fjolsvith, the question I ask, 

For now the truth would I know : 
What call they the mountain on which the maid 
Is lying so lovely to see?" 

Fjolsvith spake: 

52. "Lyfjaberg is it, and long shall it be 

A joy to the sick and the sore; 
For well shall grow each woman who climbs it, 
Though sick full long she has lain." 

Svipdag spake: 

53. "Now answer me, Fjolsvith, the question I ask, 

For now the truth would I know : 
What maidens are they that at Mengloth's knees 
Are sitting so gladly together?" 

Fjolsvith spake: • 

54. "Hlif is one named, HHfthrasa another, 

Thjothvara call they the third; 

52. Lyfjaberg ("Hill of Healing") : the manuscripts vary as 
to this name; I have followed Bugge's suggestion. This stanza 
implies that Mengloth is a goddess of healing, and hence, per- 
haps, an hypostasis of Frigg, as already intimated by her name 
(cf. stanza 3, note) . In stanza 54 Eir appears as one of Mengloth's 
handmaidens, and Eir, according to Snorri {Gylfaginning, 35) 
is herself the Norse Hygeia. Compare this stanza with stanza 32. 

54. The manuscripts and editions show many variations in 
these names. They may be approximately rendered thus: Helper, 
Help-Breather, Folk-Guardian, Shining, White, Blithe, Peaceful, 
Kindly (?), and Gold-Giver. 



Bjort and Bleik, BUth and Frith, 
Eir and Aurbotha." 

Svipdag spake: 

55. "Now answer me, Fjolsvith, the question I ask, 

For now the truth would I know : 
Aid bring they to all who offerings give, 
If need be found therefor?" 

Fjolsvith spake: 

56. "Soon aid they all who offerings give 

On the holy altars high ; 
And if danger they see for the sons of men, 
Then each from ill do they guard." 

Svipdag spake: 

57. "Now answer me, Fjolsvith, the question I ask, 

For now the truth would I know : 
Lives there the man who in Mengloth's arms 
So fair may seek to sleep ?" 

Fjolsvith spake: 

58. "No man there is who in Mengloth's arms 

So fair may seek to sleep. 
Save Svipdag alone, for the sun-bright maid 
Is destined his bride to be." 

55. One of the manuscripts omits stanzas 55 and 56. 

56. The first line is based on a conjectural emendation. 


Poetic Edda 

Svipdag spake: 
59. "Fling back the gates! make the gateway wide! 
Here mayst thou Svipdag see! 
Hence get thee to find if gladness soon 
Mengloth to me will give." 

Fjolsvith spake: 
6a "Hearken, Mengloth, a man is come ; 
Go thou the guest to see ! 
The hounds are fawning, the house bursts 
open, — 
Svipdag, methinks, is there." 

Mengloth spake: 

61. "On the gallows high shall hungry ravens 

Soon thine eyes pluck out, 
If thou liest in saying that here at last 
The hero is come to my hall. 

62. "Whence camest thou hither? how camest thou 

What name do thy kinsmen call thee? 
Thy race and thy name as a sign must I know, 
That thy bride I am destined to be." 

Svipdag spake: 

63. "Svipdag am I, and Solbjart's son; 

Thence came I by wind-cold ways; 

63. Solbjart ("Sun-Bright") : not elsewhere mentioned. The 
ivords of Urth: i.e., the decrees of fate; cf. stanza 7. 

[250 J 


With the words of Urth shall no man war, 
Though unearned her gifts be given." 

Mengloth spake: 

64. "Welcome thou art, for long have I waited ; 

The welcoming kiss shalt thou win ! 
For two who love is the longed-for meeting 
The greatest gladness of all. 

65. "Long have I sat on Lyfjaberg here. 

Awaiting thee day by day ; 
And now I have what I ever hoped, 
For here thou art come to my hall. 

66. "Alike we yearned ; I longed for thee, 

And thou for my love hast longed ; 
But now henceforth together we know 
Our lives to the end we shall live." 

65. Lyfjaberg cf. stanza 52 and note. 






The Lay of Volund 

Introductory Note 
Between the T hrymskvitha and the 4lvissmol in the Codex 
Regius stands the Volundark'vitha. It was also included in the 
Arnamagrteean Codex, but unluckily it begins at the very end of 
the fragment which has been preserved, and thus only a few 
lines of the opening prose remain. This is doubly regrettable 
because the text in Regius is unquestionably in very bad shape, 
and the other manuscript would doubtless have been of great 
assistance in the reconstruction of the poem. 

There has been a vast amount written regarding the Weland 
tradition as a whole, discussing particularly the relations between 
the Volundarkvitha and the Weland passage in Dear's Lament. 

There can be little question tha t the story camp tn the North 

from Saxon regions, along with many of the other early hero 

■ lales. Ih sfflnza i6 the Rhine is specifically mentioned as the 
home of treasure; and the presence of thp st"'-y in AntTlft-^^n'?!] 
poetry probably as early as the first_ £art of-tbieL -cighth century 
proves beyo nd a doubt tha t thej£g£ll d^cannot hav e been_ajiative_ 
2rod UCI~Pf%:andmavia. In one forni oranother, TioweverT^tHe 
legend of the smitn persisted for centuries throughout all the 
Teutonic lands, and the name of Wayland Smith is familiar to 
all readers of Walter Scott, and even of Rudyard Kipling's tales 
of England. 

In what form this story reached the North is uncertain. Sun- 
dry striking parallels between the diction of the^EM ltndar k'vitha 
and that of the Weland passage in Dear's Lament make it dis- 
tinctly probable that a iiaxon song on this subject had found its 
way to Scandinavia or Iceland. But the prose introduction to the 
poem mentions the "old sagas" in which Volund was celebrated, 
and in the Thithrekssaga we have definite evidence of the exist- 
ence of such prose narrative in the form of the Velentssaga 
(Velent, Volund, Weland, and Wayland all being, of course, 
identical), which gives a long story for which the Volundarkvitha 
can have supplied relatively little, if any, of the material. It is 

, probable, then, that Weland stories were current in both prose 

land verse in Scandinavia as early as the latter part of the ninth 

1 century. 



Once let a figure become popular in oral tradition, and the 
number and variety of the incidents connected with his name 
will increase very rapidly. Doubtless there were scores of Weland 
stories current in the eighth, ninth, and tenth centuries, many 
of them with very little if any traditional authority. The main 
one, however, the story of the laming of the smith by King v 
Nithuth (or by some other enemy) and of Weland's terrible 
revenge, forms the basis of the Volundark'vitha. To this, by way 
of introduction, has been adde d the storv of Volund and the v^ 
swan-maiden, who, to make things" even more complex7l5 likewise 
said to be a Valkyrie, S ome critics maintain that these two sectio ns 
were originally two distinct poems ^jperely strung together by th^ 
compiler with the help of narrative prose links; but the poem 1/ 
as a whole has a kind of dramatic unity which suggests rather 
that an early poet — for linguistically the poem belongs among ^ 
the oldest of the Eddie collection — used two._distinct .legends, 
whether in prose or verse, as the basis for the composition of a 
new and homogeneous poem. 

y\\p gwrj p -mai den story a ppears, of course, in many places 
quite distinct from the WeFand tradition, and, in another form, 
became one of the most popular of German folk tales. Like 
the story of Weland, however, if is of German rather than 
_Jirnr»'^'"''"'''M nr' ri'"» ^ "d the identification of the swan-maiaens 
as Valkyries, which may havetalcen plgC6 before tTT TT leg e n d 
reached the North, may, on the other hand, have been simply 
^" "ttfmpt *•" ''"nnprt sniithfrn tradifinn vyith figuring yy gll known 
in _jinrtl\ern mythology. 

The V'6lundark'vitlid"i% full of prose narrative links, including 
an introduction. The nature of such prose links has already 
been discussed in the introductory note to the Grimnismol ; the 
Volundark'vitha is a striking illustration of the way in which the 
funr tinn nf fViP parlipf Eddic verse was limited chiefly to dialogue 
or description^ t he narrative outline bemg provided, if al all; iiT" 
prose. This prose was put in by each reciter according to hisj 
fancy and knowledge, and his estimate of his hearers' need for ! 
such explanations; some of it, as in this instance, eventually' 
found its way into the written record. 

The manuscript of the Volundarkvitha is in such bad shape, 
and the conjectural emendations have been so numerous, that 
in the notes I have attempted to record only the most important 
of them. 


Poetic Edda 

There was a king in Sweden named Nithuth. He had 
two sons and one daughter; her name was Bothvild. 
There were three brothers, sons of a king of the Finns: 
one was called Slagfith, another Egil, the third Volund. 
They went on snowshoes and hunted wild beasts. They 
came into Ulfdalir and there they built themselves a house ; 
there was a lake there which is called Ulfsjar. Early one 
morning they found on the shore of the lake three women, 
who were spinning flax. Near them were their swan- 
garments, for they were Valkyries. Two of them were 
daughters of King Hlothver, Hlathguth the Swan-White 
and Hervor the All-Wise, and the third was Olrun, 
daughter of Kjar from Valland. These did they bring 

Prose. Nithuth ("Bitter Hater") : here identified as a king of 
Sweden, is in the poem (stanzas 9, 15 and 32) called lord of the 
Njars, which may refer to the people of the Swedish district of 
Nerike. In any case, the scene of the story has moved from 
Saxon lands into the Northeast. The first and last sentences of 
the introduction refer to the second part of the poem; the rest of 
it concerns the swan-maidens episode. Bothvild ("Warlike 
Maid") : Volund's victim in the latter part of the poem. King of 
the Finns: this notion, clearly later than the poem, which calls 
Volund an elf, may perhaps be ascribed to the annotator who 
composed the prose introduction. The Finns, meaning the dwell- 
ers in Lapland, were generally credited with magic powers. 
Egil appears in the Thithrekssaga as Volund's brother, but Slag- 
fith is not elsewhere mentioned. Ulfdalir ("Wolf-Dale"), Ulfsjar 
("Wolf-Sea"), Valland ("Slaughter-Land") : mythical places 
without historical identification. Valkyries: cf. Voluspo, 31 and 
note; there is nothing in the poem to identify the three swan- 
maidens as Valkyries except one obscure word in line 2 of stanza 
I and again in line 5 of stanza 5, which may mean, as Gering 
translates it, "helmed," or else "fair and wise." I suspect that 
the annotator, anxious to give the Saxon legend as much northern 
local color as possible, was mistaken in his mythology, and that 



home to their hall with them. Egil took Olrun, and Slag- 
fith Swan-White, and Volund All-Wise. There they 
dwelt seven winters ; but then they flew away to find bat- 
tles, and came back no more. Then Egil set forth on his 
snowshoes to follow Olrun, and Slagfith followed Swan- 
White, but Volund stayed in Ulfdalir. He was a most 
skillful man, as men know from old tales. King Nithuth 
had him taken by force, as the poem here tells. 

I. Maids from the south through Myrkwood flew. 
Fair and young, their fate to follow; 
On the shore of the sea to rest them they sat, 
The maids of the south, and flax they spun. 

the poet never conceived of his swan-maidens as Valkyries at all. 
However, this identification of swan-maidens with Valkyries was 
not uncommon; cf. Helre'tth Brynhildar, 7. The three maidens' 
names, Hlathguth, Hervor, and Olrun, do not appear in the lists 
of Valkyries. King Hloth'ver: this name suggests the southern 
origin of the story, as it is the northern form of Ludwig; the 
name appears again in Guthrunarkzitha II, 26, and that of Kjar 
is found in Atlakvitha, 7, both of these poems being based on 
German stories. It is worth noting that the composer of this intro- 
ductory note seems to have had little or no information beyond 
what was actually contained in the poem as it has come down to 
us; he refers to the "old stories" about Volund, but either he was 
unfamiliar with them in detail or else he thought it needless to 
make use of them. His note simply puts in clear and connected 
form what the verse tells somewhat obscurely; his only addi- 
tions are making Nithuth a king of Sweden and Volund's father 
a king of the Finns, supplying the name Ulfsjar for the lake, 
identifying the swan-maidens as Valkyries, and giving Kjar a 
home in Valland. 

I. The manuscript indicates line 3 as the beginning of a 
stanza; two lines may have been lost before or after lines 1-2, 


Poetic Edda 


Hlathguth and Hervor, Hlothver's children, 
And Olrun the Wise Kjar's daughter was. 


One in her arms took Egil then 

To her bosom white, the woman rair. 

4. Swan-White second, — swan-feathers she wore, 

And her arms the third of the sisters threw 
Next round Volund's neck so white. 

5. There did they sit for seven winters, 

In the eighth at last came their longing again, 
(And in the ninth did need divide them). 
The maidens yearned for the murky wood, 
The fair young maids, their fate to follow. 

and two more, or even six, with the additional stanza describing 
the theft of the swan-garments, after line 4. Myrkivood: a stock 
name for a magic, dark forest; cf. Lokasenna, 42. 

2. In the manuscript these two lines stand after stanza 16; 
editors have tried to fit them into various places, but the prose 
indicates that they belong here, with a gap assumed. 

3. In the manuscript these two lines follow stanza i, with no 
gap indicated, and the first line marked as the beginning of a 
stanza. Many editors have combined them with stanza 4. 

4. No lacuna indicated in the manuscript; one editor fills the 
stanza out with a second line running: "Then to her breast 
Slagfith embraced." 

5. Line 3 looks like an interpolation, but line 5, identical with 
line 2 of stanza i, may be the superfluous one. 

[256 J 


6. Volund home from his hunting came, 

From a weary way, the weather-wise bowman, 
Slagfith and Egil the hall found empty. 
Out and in went they, everywhere seeking. 

7. East fared Egil after Olrun, 

And Slagfith south to seek for Swan-White; 
Volund alone In Ulfdalir lay, 

8. Red gold he fashioned with fairest gems. 
And rings he strung on ropes of bast ; 

So for his wife he waited long. 

If the fair one home might come to him. 

9. This Nithuth learned, the lord of the Njars, 
That Volund alone in Ulfdalir lay; 

6. The phrase "Volund home from a weary way" is an emen- 
dation of Bugge's, accepted by many editors. Some of those who 
do not include it reject line 4, and combine the remainder of the 
stanza with all or part of stanza 7. 

7. The manuscript marks the second, and not the first, line as 
the beginning of a stanza. Some editors combine lines 2-3 with all 
or part of stanza 8. No gap is indicated in the manuscript, but 
many editors have assumed one, some of them accepting Bugge's 
suggested "Till back the maiden bright should come." 

8. No line in this stanza is indicated in the manuscript as be- 
ginning a new stanza ; editors have tried all sorts of experiments 
in regrouping the lines into stanzas with those of stanzas 7 and 
9. In line 3 the word long is sheer guesswork, as the line in the 
manuscript contains a metrical error. 

9. Some editors combine the first two lines with parts of 
stanza 8, and the last two with the first half of stanza lo. Njars: 


Poetic Edda 

By night went his men, their mail-coats were 

Their shields in the waning moonlight shone. 

10. From their saddles the gable wall they sought, 
And in they went at the end of the hall; 
Rings they saw there on ropes of bast. 

Seven hundred the hero had. 

11. Of? they took them, but all they left 
Save one alone which they bore away. 

12. Volund home from his hunting came. 

From a weary way, the weather-wise bowman; 
A brown bear's flesh would he roast with fire ; 
Soon the wood so dry was burning well, 
(The wind-dried wood that Volund's was). 

there has been much, and inconclusive, discussion as to what this 
name means; probably it applies to a semi-mythical people some- 
where vaguely in "the East." 

lo. Some editors combine lines 3-4 with the fragmentary 
stanza 11. 

n. No gap indicated in the manuscript; some editors combine 
these lines with lines 3-4 of stanza 10, while others combine them 
with the first two lines of stanza 12. The one ring which Nithuth's 
men steal is given to Bothvild, and proves the cause of her 

12. The manuscript indicates line 3, and not line i, as the be- 
ginning of a stanza, which has given rise to a large amount of 
conjectural rearrangement. Line 2 of the original is identical 
with the phrase added by Bugge in stanza 6. Line 5 may be 



13. On the bearskin he rested, and counted the rings, 
The master of elves, but one he missed ; 

That Hlothver's daughter had it he thought, 
And the all-wise maid had come once more. 

14. So long he sat that he fell asleep. 
His waking empty of gladness was; 
Heavy chains he saw on his hands, 
And fetters bound his feet together. 

Volund spake: 

15. "What men are they who thus have laid 
Ropes of bast to bind me now ?" 

Then Nithuth called, the lord of the Njars: 
"How gottest thou, Volund, greatest of elves, 
These treasures of ours in Ulfdalir?" 

Volund spake: 

16. "The gold was not on Grani's way, 

spurious, or lines 4-5 may have been expanded out of a single 
line running "The wind-dried wood for Volund burned well." 
13. Elves: the poem here identifies Volund as belonging to 
the race of the elves. Hlothver's daughter: Hervor; many editors 
treat the adjective "all-wise" here as a proper name. 

15. In this poem the manuscript indicates the speakers. Some 
editors make lines 1-2 into a separate stanza, linking lines 3-5 
(or 4-5) with stanza 16. Line 3 is very possibly spurious, a mere 
expansion of "Nithuth spake." Nithuth, of course, has come with 
his men to capture Volund, and now charges him with having 
stolen his treasure. 

16. The manuscript definitely assigns this stanza to Volund, 
but many editors give the first two lines to Nithuth. In the manu- 


Poetic Edda 

Far, methinks, is our realm from the hills of the 

Rhine ; 
I mind me that treasures more we had 
When happy together at home we were." 

17. Without stood the wife of Nithuth wise, 
And in she came from the end of the hall ; 
On the floor she stood, and softly spoke: 
"Not kind does he look who comes from the 

King Nithuth gave to his daughter Bothvild the gold 
ring that he had taken from the bast rope in Volund's 

script stanza 16 is followed by the two lines of stanza 2, and 
many editions make of lines 3-4 of stanza 16 and stanza z a 
single speech by Volund. Grant's <way: Grani was Sigurth's 
horse, on which he rode to slay Fafnir and win Andvari's hoard ; 
this and the reference to the Rhine as the home of wealth betray 
the southern source of the story. If lines 1-2 belong to Volund, 
they mean that Nithuth got his wealth in the Rhine country, and 
that Volund's hoard has nothing to do with it; if the speak'er is 
Nithuth, they mean that Volund presumably has not killed a 
dragon, and that he is far from the wealth of the Rhine, so that 
he must have stolen his treasure from Nithuth himself. 

17. Line i is lacking in the manuscript, lines 2-4 following 
immediately after the two lines here given as stanza 2. Line i, 
borrowed from line i of stanza 32, is placed here by many edi- 
tors, following Bugge's suggestion. Certainly it is Nithuth's wife 
who utters line 4. Who comes from the wood: Volund, noted as a 
hunter. Gering assumes that with the entrance of Nithuth's wife 
the scene has changed from Volund's house to Nithuth's, but I 
cannot see that this is necessary. 

Prose. The annotator inserted this note rather clumsily in the 
midst of the speech of Nithuth's wife. 



house, and he himself wore the sword that Volund had 
had. The queen spake: 

1 8. "The glow of his eyes is like gleaming snakes, 
His teeth he gnashes if now is shown 

The sword, or Bothvild's ring he sees; 

Let them straightway cut his sinews of strength, 

And set him then in Saevarstath." 

So was it done: the sinews in his knee-joints were cut, 
and he was set in an island which was near the mainland, 
and was called Saevarstath. There he smithied for the 
king all kinds of precious things. No man dared to go 
to him, save only the king himself, Volund spake: 

19. "At Nithuth's girdle gleams the sword 
That I sharpened keen with cunningest craft, 
(And hardened the steel with highest skill;) 
The bright blade far forever is borne, 

(Nor back shall I see it borne to my smithy;) 
Now Bothvild gets the golden ring 
(That was once my bride's, — ne'er well shall it 

18. In the manuscript lines 2-3 stand before line i ; many 
editors have made the transposition here indicated. Some editors 
reject line 3 as spurious. Savarstath: "Sea-Stead." 

19. This stanza is obviously In bad shape. Vigfusson makes 
two stanzas of it by adding a first line: "Then did Volund 
speak, sagest of elves." Editors have rejected various lines, 
and some have regrouped the last lines with the first two of 


Poetic Edda 

20. He sat, nor slept, and smote with his hanuner, 
Fast for Nithuth wonders he fashioned ; 
Two boys did go in his door to gaze, 
Nithuth's sons, into Saevarstath. 

2 1 . They came to the chest, and they craved the keys, 
The evil was open when in they looked; 

To the boys it seemed that gems they saw, 
Gold in plenty and precious stones. 

Volund spake: 

22. "Come ye alone, the next day come. 
Gold to you both shall then be given ; 
Tell not the maids or the men of the hall. 
To no one say that me you have sought." 

stanza 20. The elimination of the passages in parenthesis pro- 
duces a four-line stanza which is metrically correct, but it has 
little more than guesswork to support it. 

20. The editions vary radically in combining the lines of this 
stanza with those of stanzas 19 and 2t, particularly as the manu- 
script indicates the third line as the beginning of a stanza. The 
meaning, however, remains unchanged. 

21. Several editions make one stanza out of lines 3-4 of stanza 
20 and lines 1-2 of stanza 21, and another out of the next four 
lines. The evil nvas open: i.e., the gold in the chest was destined 
to be their undoing. 

22. The manuscript indicates line 3 as the beginning of a 
stanza, and several editors have adopted this grouping. In the 
Thithrekssaga Volund sends the boys away with instructions not 
to come back until just after a fall of snow, and then to approach 
his dwelling walking backward. The boys do this, and when, 
after he has killed them, Volund is questioned regarding them, 
he points to the tracks in the snow as evidence that they had left 
his house. 



Early did brother to brother call : 
"Swift let us go the rings to see." 

24. They came to the chest, and they craved the keys, 
The evil was open when in they looked ; 

He smote off their heads, and their feet he hid 
Under the sooty straps of the bellows. 

25. Their skulls, once hid by their hair, he took, 
Set them in silver and sent them to Nithuth ; 
Gems full fair from their eyes he fashioned, 
To Nithuth's wife so wise he gave them. 

26. And from the teeth of the twain he wrought 
A brooch for the breast, to Bothvild he sent it; 

27. Bothvild then of her ring did boast, 

23. No gap indicated in the manuscript. Some editors assume 
it, as here ; some group the lines with lines 3-4 of stanza 22, and 
some with lines 1-2 of stanza 24. 

24. Some editions begin a new stanza with line 3. 

25. The manuscript indicates line 3 as the beginning of a 
stanza, and many editors have adopted this grouping. 

26. These two lines have been grouped in various ways, either 
with lines 3-4 of stanza 25 or with the fragmentary stanza 27. 
No gap is indicated in the manuscript, but the loss of something 
is so obvious that practically all editors have noted it, although 
they have diflFered as to the number of lines lost. 

2J. No gap indicated in the manuscript; the line and a half 

Poetic Edda 

"The ring I have broken, 

I dare not say it save to thee." 

Volund spake: 

28. "I shall weld the break in the gold so well 
That fairer than ever thy father shall find it, 
And better much thy mother shall think it, 
And thou no worse than ever it was." 

29. Beer he brought, he was better in cunning. 
Until in her seat full soon she slept. 

Volund spake: 
"Now vengeance I have for all my hurts, 
Save one alone, on the evil woman." 


Quoth Volund: "Would that well were the 

Maimed in my feet by Nithuth's men." 

might be filled out (partly with the aid of late paper manu- 
scripts) thus: "But soon it broke, and swiftly to Volund / She 
bore it and said — " 

29. The manuscript does not name Volund as the speaker 
before line 3 ; Vigfusson again inserts his convenient line, "Then 
Volund spake, sagest of elves." A few editions combine lines 
3-4 with the two lines of stanza 30. 

30. No gap indicated in the manuscript; some editors com- 
bine the two lines with lines 3-4 of stanza 29, and many with 
the three lines of stanza 31. 



31. Laughing Volund rose aloft, 
Weeping Bothvild went from the isle, 

For her lover's flight and her father's wrath. 

32. Without stood the wife of Nithuth wise, 
And in she came from the end of the hall ; 
But he by the wall in weariness sat : 
"Wakest thou, Nithuth, lord of the Njars?" 

Nithuth spake: 

33. "Always I wake, and ever joyless, 
Little I sleep since my sons were slain; 
Cold is my head, cold was thy counsel, 
One thing, with Volund to speak, I wish. 


31. Something has probably been lost before this stanza, ex- 
plaining how Volund made himself wings, as otherwise, owing 
to his lameness, he could not leave the island. The Thithrekssaga 
tells the story of how Volund's brother, Egil, shot birds and gave 
him the feathers, out of which he made a feather-garment. This 
break in the narrative illustrates the lack of knowledge appar- 
ently possessed by the compiler who was responsible for the 
prose notes ; had he known the story told in the Thithrekssaga, it 
is hardly conceivable that he would have failed to indicate the 
necessary connecting link at this point. Some editors reject line 3 
as spurious. The manuscript does not indicate any lacuna. 

32. The manuscript indicates line 4 as the beginning of a 
stanza, and many editors have followed this arrangement. 

33. The manuscript does not name the speaker. It indicates 
line 3 as the beginning of a new stanza. Vigfusson adds before 
line I, "Then spake Nithuth, lord of the Njars." 

34. No gap indicated in the manuscript, but it seems clear 


Poetic Edda 

"Answer me, Volund, greatest of elves, 

What happed with my boys that hale once were ?" 

Volund spake: 

35. "First shalt thou all the oaths now swear, 
By the rail of ship, and the rim of shield, 

By the shoulder of steed, and the edge of sword, 
That to Volund's wife thou wilt work no ill. 
Nor yet my bride to her death wilt bring. 
Though a wife I should have that well thou 

And a child I should have within thy hall. 

36. "Seek the smithy that thou didst set. 

Thou shalt find the bellows sprinkled with blood ; 
I smote off the heads of both thy sons. 
And their feet 'neath the sooty straps I hid, 

37. "Their skulls, once hid by their hair, I took, 
Set them in silver and sent them to Nithuth; 

that something has been lost. Some editors combine these two 
lines with lines 3-4 of stanza 33. Volund is now flying over 
Nithuth's hall. 

35. The manuscript does not name the speaker; Vigfusson 
again makes two full stanzas with the line, "Then did Volund 
speak, sagest of elves." Some editors begin a new stanza with 
line 4, while others reject as interpolations lines 2-3 or 5-7. 
Volund's twife: the reference is to Bothvild, as Volund wishes to 
have his vengeance fall more heavily on her father than on her. 

36. Lines 3-4 are nearly identical with lines 3-4 of stanza 24. 

37. Identical, except for the pronouns, with stanza 25. 



Gems full fair from their eyes I fashioned, 
To Nithuth's wife so wise I gave them. 

38. "And from the teeth of the twain I wrought 
A brooch for the breast, to Bothvild I gave it ; 
Now big with child does Bothvild go. 

The only daughter ye two had ever." 

Nit hut h spake: 

39. "Never spakest thou word that worse could hurt 

Nor that made me, Volund, more bitter for ven- 
geance ; 
There is no man so high from thy horse to take 
Or so doughty an archer as down to shoot thee, 
While high in the clouds thy course thou takest." 

40. Laughing Volund rose aloft. 
But left in sadness Nithuth sat. 

38. Lines 1-2: cf. stanza 26. 

39. The manuscript does not name the speaker. Either line 4 
or line 5 may be an interpolation; two editions reject lines 3-5, 
combining lines 1-2 with stanza 40. In the Thithrekssaga Nithuth 
actually compels Egil, Volund's brother, to shoot at Volund. The 
latter has concealed a bladder full of blood under his left arm, 
and when his brother's arrow pierces this, Nithuth assumes that 
his enemy has been killed. This episode likewise appears among 
the scenes from Volund's career rudely carved on an ancient 
casket of ivory, bearing an Anglo-Saxon inscription in runic let- 
ters, which has been preserved. 

40. Line 1: cf. stanza 31. The manuscript indicates no lacuna. 


Poetic Edda 

41. Then spake Nithuth, lord of the Njars: 
"Rise up, Thakkrath, best of my thralls, 
Bid Bothvild come, the bright-browed maid, 
Bedecked so fair, with her father to speak." 


"Is it true, Bothvild, that which was told me ; 
Once in the isle with Volund wert thou?" 

Bothvild spake: 
43. "True is it, Nithuth, that which was told thee, 
Once in the isle with Volund was I, 
An hour of lust, alas it should be! 
Nought was my might with such a man, 
Nor from his strength could I save myself." 

41. The first line is a conjectural addition. Thakkrath is prob- 
ably the northern form of the Middle High German name 

42. The manuscript indicates no gap, but indicates line 3 as 
the beginning of a stanza ; Vigfusson's added "Then Nithuth 
spake, lord of the Njars" seems plausible enough. 

43. The manuscript does not name the speaker. Different 
editors have rejected one or another of the last three lines, and 
as the manuscript indicates line 4 as the beginning of a new 
stanza, the loss of two or three lines has likewise been suggested. 
According to the Thithrekssaga, the son of Volund and Bothvild 
was Vithga, or Witege, one of the heroes of Dietrich of Bern. 



The Lay of Helgi the Son of Hjorvarth 

Introductory Note 

The three Helgi lays, all found in the Codex Regius, have 
been the subjects of a vast amount of discussion, in spite of 
which many of the facts regarding them are still very far from 
settled. It is, indeed, scarcely possible to make any unqualified 
statement regarding these three poems for which a flat contra- 
diction cannot be found in the writings of some scholar of 
distinction. The origin of the Helgi tradition, its connection 
with that of Si gurth^ the authorship, date and home of the 
poems, the degree to vvhich they have been altered from their 
original forms, the status of the composer of the copious prose 
notes: these and many other allied questions have been and 
probably always will be matters of dispute among students of 
the Edda's history. 

Without attempting to enter into the discussion in detail, 
certain theories should be noted. Helgi appears originally to 
have been a Danish popular hero, the son of King Halfdan. 
Saxo Grammaticus has a good deal to say about him in that 
capacity, and it has been pointed out that many of the place 
names in the Helgi lays can be pretty clearly identified with 
parts of Denmark and neighboring stretches of the Baltic. The 
Danish Helgi, according to Saxo, was famed as the conqueror 
of Hunding and Hothbrodd, the latter as the result of a naval 
expedition at the head of a considerable fleet. 

From Denmark the story appears to have spread northward 
into Norway and westward into the Norse settlements among 
the islands. Not many of its original features remained, and new 
ones were added here and there, particularly with regard to 
Helgi's love affair with Sigrun. The victories over Hunding 
and Hothbrodd, however, were generally retained, and out of 
material relating to these two fights, and to the Helgi-Sigrun 
story, were fashioned the two lays of Helgi Hundingsbane. 

How the Helgi legend became involved with that of the 
Volsungs is an open question. Both stories travelled from the 
South, and presumably about the same time, so it is not unnatural 


Poetic Edda 

that some confusion should have arisen. At no tinoe, however, 
was the connection particularly close so far as the actual 
episodes of the two stories were concerned. In the two lays of 
Helgi Hundingsbane the relationship is established only by the 
statement that Helgi was the son of Sigmund and Borghild; 
Sigurth is not mentioned, and in the lay of Helgi the son of 
Hjorvarth there is no connection at all. On the other hand, 
Helgi does not appear in any of the Eddie poems dealing 
directly with the Volsung stories, although in one passage of 
doubtful authenticity (cf. Reginsmol, introductory note) his 
traditional enemy, Hunding, does, represented by his sons. In 
the Volsungasaga the story of Helgi, including the fights with 
Hunding and Hothbrodd and the love affair with Sigrun, is 
told in chapters 8 and 9 without otherwise affecting the course 
of the narrative. Here, as in the Helgi lays, Helgi is the son 
of Sigmund Volsungsson and Borghild; Sigurth, on the other 
hand, is the son of Sigmund and Hjordis, the latter being the 
daughter of King Eylimi. Still another son, who complicates 
both stories somewhat, is Sinfjotii, son of Sigmund and his 
own sister, Signy. Sinfjotii appears in both of the Helgi Hund- 
ingsbane lays and in the Volsungasaga, but not in any of the 
Eddie poems belonging to the Volsung cycle (cf. Fra Dautha 
Sinfjotla and note). 

There is a certain amount of resemblance between the story 
of Helgi and Sigrun and that of Sigurth and Brynhild, particu- 
larly as the annotator responsible for the prose notes insists 
that Sigrun was a Valkyrie. Whether this resemblance was the 
cause of bringing the two stories together, or whether the 
identification of Helgi as Sigmund's son resulted in alterations 
of the love story in the Helgi poems, cannot be determined. 

The first of the three Helgi poems, the lay of Helgi the son 
of Hjorvarth, is a somewhat distant cousin of the other two. 
The Helgi in question is apparently the same traditional figure, 
and he leads a naval expedition, but he is not the son of 
Sigmund, there is no connection with the Volsung cycle, and his 
wife is Svava, not Sigrun. At the same time, the points of 
general resemblance with the two Helgi Hundingsbane lays 
are such as to indicate a common origin, provided one goes 
far enough back. The annotator brings the stories together by 
the naive expedient of having Helgi "born again," and not once 
only, but twice. 


Helgakvitha Hjorvarthssonar 

The first Helgi lay is manifestly in bad shape, and includes 
at least two distinct poems, diflFerentiated not only by subject- 
matter but by metrical form. Although the question is debatable, 
the longer of these poems (stanzas i-ii and 31-43) seems in 
turn to have been compounded out of fragments of two or more 
Helgi poems. The first five stanzas are a dialogue between a 
bird and Atli, one of Hjorvarth's followers, concerning the 
winning of Sigrlin, who is destined to be Hjorvarth's wife and 
Helgi's mother. Stanzas 6-1 1 are a dialogue between Helgi and 
a Valkyrie (the accompanying prose so calls her, and identifies 
her as Svava, but there is nothing in the verse to prove this). 
Stanzas 12-30 form a fairly consecutive unit, in which Atli, on 
guard over Helgi's ship, has a vigorous argument with a giantess, 
Hrimgerth, whence this section has sometimes been called the 
Hrimgertharmol {Lay of Hrimgerth). The last section, stanzas 
31-43, is again fairly consecutive, and tells of the death of 
Helgi following the rash oath of his brother, Hethin, to win 
Svava for himself. 

Parts I, n, and IV may all have come from the same poem 
or they may not; it is quite impossible to tell surely. All of them 
are generally dated by commentators not later than the first 
half of the tenth century, whereas the Hrimgertharmol (section 
HI) is placed considerably later. When and by whom these 
fragments were pieced together is another vexed question, and 
this involves a consideration of the prose notes and links, of 
which the Helgakvitha Hjorvarthssonar has a larger amount 
than any other poem in the Edda. These prose links contain 
practically all the narrative, the verse being almost exclusively 
dialogue. Whoever composed them seems to have been con- 
sciously trying to bring his chaotic verse material into some 
semblance of unity, but he did his work pretty clumsily, with 
manifest blunders and contradictions. Bugge has advanced the 
theory that these prose passages are to be regarded as an 
original and necessary part of the work, but this hardly squares 
with the evidence. 

It seems probable, rather, that as the Helgi tradition spread 
from its native Denmark through the Norse regions of the North 
and West, and became gradually interwoven, although not in 
essentials, with the other great hero cycle from the South, that 
of the Volsungs, a considerable number of poems dealing with 
Helgi were composed, at different times and in different places, 


Poetic Edda 

reflecting varied forms of the story. Many generations after- 
wards, when Iceland's literary period had arrived, some zealous 
scribe committed to writing such poems or fragments of poems 
as he knew, piecing them together and annotating them on the 
basis of information which had reached him through other 
channels. The prose notes to Helgakvitha Hundingsbana II 
frankly admit this patchwork process: a section of four stanzas 
(13-16) is introduced with the phrase, "as is said in the Old 
Volsung Lay"; the final prose note cites an incident "told in 
the Karuljoth {Lay of Kara)" and a two-line speech is quoted 
"as it was written before in the Helgakvitha." 

The whole problem of the origin, character and home of the 
Helgi poems has been discussed in great detail by Bugge in his 
Helge-D'tgtene i den yEldre Edda, Deres Hjem og Forbindelser, 
which, as translated by W. H. Schofield under the title The 
Home of the Eddie Poems, is available for readers of English. 
This study is exceedingly valuable, if not in all respects con- 
vincing. The whole matter is so complex and so important in 
the history of Old Norse literature, and any intelligent reading 
of the Helgi poems is so dependent on an understanding of 
the conditions under which they have come down to us, that 
I have here discussed the question more extensively than the 
scope of a mere introductory note to a single poem would 



Hjorvarth was the name of a king, who had four wives: 
one was called Alfhild, and their son was named Hethin ; 
the second was called Saereith, and their son was named 
Humlung; the third was called Sinrjoth, and their son was 

Prose: In the manuscript the sub-title, "Of Hjorvarth and 
Sigrlin," stands as the title for the whole poem, though it clearly 
applies only to the first five stanzas. Most editions employ the 
title here given. Hjorvarth: the name is a not uncommon one; 


Helgakvitha Hjorvarthssonar 

named Hymling. King Hjorvarth had made a great vow 
to have as wife whatsoever woman he knew was fairest. 
He learned that King Svafnir had a daughter fairer than 
all others, whose name was Sigrlin. Ithmund was the 
name of one of his jarls; he had a son called Atli, who 
went to woo Sigrlin on behalf of the king. He dwelt 
the winter long with King Svafnir. There was a jarl 
called Franmar, Sigrhn's foster-father; his daughter was 
named Alof. The jarl told him that the maiden's hand 
was denied, and Atli went home. Atli, the jarl's son, 
stood one day in a certain wood ; a bird sat in the branches 
up over him, and it had heard that his men called Hjor- 
varth's wives the fairest of women. The bird twittered, 
and Atli hearkened to what it spoke. It said : 

there are two men of that name mentioned in the mythical- 
heroic genealogies of the Hyndluljoth (stanzas 23 and 28), and 
Hjorvarth appears in Helgakvitha Hundingsbana I (stanza 14) 
and II (prose after stanza 12) as a son of Hunding. This 
particular Hjorvarth is called by the annotator, but not directly 
so in the verse, a king of Norway. The name means "Sword- 
Guardian." Four wives: polygamy, while very infrequent, 
appears occasionally in the Norse sagas. Alfhild: "Elf-Warrior." 
Hethin: "Fur-Clothed" (?). Sareith: "Sea-Rider." Sinrjoth: 
"Ever-Red." The fourdi wife, not here named, may be Sigrlin. 
It has been suggested that Saereith and Sinrjoth may be northern 
and southern forms of the same name, as also Humlung and 
Hymling, their sons. Svafnir: the annotator calls him king of 
Svavaland, apparently a place on the mainland which could be 
reached from Norway either by land or by sea. Sigrlin: "The 
Conquering Serpent." Atli: Norse form of the Gothic Attila 
(Etzel). Alof: perhaps a feminine form of Olaf. A bird: 
compare the counsel given by the birds to Sigurth after the 
slaying of Fafnir {Fafnismol, stanzas 32-38). This is one of the 
many curious resemblances between the Helgi and the Sigurth 

[ 273 ] 

Poetic Edda 

1. "Sawest thou Sigrlin, Svafnir's daughter, 
The fairest maid in her home-land found? 
Though Hjorvath's wives by men are held 
Goodly to see in Glasir's wood." 

Atli spake: 

2. "Now with Atli, Ithmund's son. 
Wilt thou say more, thou bird so wise ?" 

The bird spake: 
"I may if the prince an offering makes. 
And I have what I will from the house of the 

Jtli spake: 

3. "Choose not Hjorvarth, nor sons of his, 
Nor the wives so fair of the famous chief; 
Ask not the brides that the prince's are; 
Fair let us deal in friendly wise." 

The bird spake: 

4. "A fane will I ask, and altars many, 
Gold-horned cattle the prince shall give me, 
If Sigrlin yet shall sleep in his arms. 

Or free of will the hero shall follow." 

I. Glasir's zuood: Snorri in the Skaldskaparmal quotes a half 
stanza to the effect that "Glasir stands with golden leaves 
before Othin's hall," and calls it "the fairest wood among gods 
and men." The phrase as used here seems to mean little. 

4. The bird's demands would indicate that it is in reality one 
of the gods. Gold-horned cattle: cf. Thrymskvitha, 23. There 


Helgakvitha Hjorvarthssonar 

This was before Atli went on his journey; but when 
he came home, and the king asked his tidings, he said : 

5. "Trouble we had, but tidings none. 

Our horses failed in the mountains high, 
The waters of Saemorn we needs must wade ; 
Svafnir's daughter, with rings bedecked, 
She whom we sought, was still denied us." 

The king bade that they should go another time, and 
he went with them himself. But when they came up on 
the mountain, they saw Svavaland burning and mighty 
dust-clouds from many steeds. The king rode from the 
mountain forward into the land, and made a night's stay 
hard by a stream. Atli kept watch and went over the 
stream ; he found there a house. A great bird sat on the 
housetop to guard it, but he was asleep. Atli hurled his 
spear at the bird and slew it, and in the house he found 
Sigrlin the king's daughter and Alof the jarl's daughter, 
and he brought them both thence with him. Jarl Franmar 
had changed himself into the likeness of an eagle, and 
guarded them from the enemy host by magic. Hrothmar 
was the name of a king, a wooer of Sigrlin; he slew the 

are other references to gilding the horns of cattle, particularly 
for sacrificial purposes. 

Prose. The annotator contradicts himself here, as he had 
already stated that Atli was on his way home. 

5. Possibly the remains of two stanzas, or perhaps a line has 
been added. Seemorn: this river is nowhere else mentioned. 

Prose. Sigrlin and Alof, protected by the latter's father, 
Franmar, have fled before the ravaging army of Sigrlin's rejected 


Poetic Edda 

king of Svavaland and had plundered and burned his 
land. King Hjorvarth took Sigrlin, and Atli took Alof. 


Hjorvarth and Sigrlin had a son, mighty and of noble 
stature; he was a silent man, and no name stuck fast to 
him. He sat on a hill, and saw nine Valkyries riding; 
one of them was the fairest of all. She spake : 

6. "Late wilt thou, Helgi, have hoard of rings, 
Thou battle-tree fierce, or of shining fields, — 
The eagle screams soon, — if never thou speakest. 
Though, hero, hard thy heart may cry." 

Helgi spake: 

7. "What gift shall I have with Helgi's name. 
Glorious maid, for the giving is thine ? 

suitor, Hrothmar. The beginning of a new section (II) is indi- 
cated in the manuscript only by the unusually large capital letter 
with which "Hjorvarth" begins. No name, etc.: this probably 
means that Helgi had always been so silent that he would answer 
to no name, with the result that he had none. Valkyries: cf. 
Voluspo, 31 and note. The annotator insists here and in the 
prose after stanza 9 that Svava was a Valkyrie, but there is 
nothing in the verse to prove it, or, indeed, to identify the 
Svava of the last section of the poem with the person who gave 
Helgi his name. In the Volsungasaga Sigmund himself names 
his son Helgi, and gives him a sword, following Helgakvitha 
Hundingsbana I. 

6. Battle-tree: poetic phrase for "warrior." Shining fields: 
the words in the manuscript may form a proper name, Rothuls- 
voll, having this meaning. 

7. Gift: not only was it customary to give gifts with the naming 


Helgakvitha Hjorvarthssonar 

All thy words shall I think on well, 
But I want them not if I win not thee." 

The Valkyrie spake: 

8. "Swords I know lying in Sigarsholm, 
Fifty there are save only four; 

One there is that is best of all, 

The shield-destroyer, with gold it shines. 

9. "In the hilt is fame, in the haft is courage, 
In the point is fear, for its owner's foes; 

On the blade there lies a blood-flecked snake. 
And a serpent's tail round the flat is twisted." 

Eylimi was the name of a king, whose daughter was 
Svava; she was a Valkyrie, and rode air and sea. She 
gave Helgi this name, and shielded him oft thereafter in 
battle. Helgi spake: 

10. "Hjorvarth, king, unwholesome thy counsels. 
Though famed thou art in leading the folk. 

of a child, but the practice frequently obtained when a permanent 
epithet was added to the name of an adult. 

8. Sigarsholm ("Isle of Sigar") : a place not identified, but 
probably related to the Sigarsvoll where Helgi was slain 
(stanza 35). 

9. The sword is carved with magic runes and with snakes. 
Fame: the original word is uncertain. 

Prose. Eylimi: this name is another link with the Sigurth 
story, as it is likewise the name of the father of Sigurth's mother, 

10. With this stanza begins a new episode, that of Helgi's 


Poetic Edda 

Letting fire the homes of heroes eat, 
Who evil deed had never done thee. 

11. "Yet Hrothmar still the hoard doth hold, 
The wealth that once our kinsmen w^ielded ; 
Full seldom care the king disturbs, 

Heir to dead men he deems himself." 

Hjorvarth answered that he would give Helgi a fol- 
lowing if he fain would avenge his mother's father. Then 
Helgi got the sword that Svava had told him of. So 
he went, and Atli with him, and they slew Hrothmar, 
and they did many great deeds. 

He slew the giant Hati, whom he found sitting on a 
certain mountain. Helgi and Atli lay with their ships 
in Hatafjord. Atli kept watch during the first part of 
the night. Hrimgerth, Hati's daughter, spake; 

12. "Who are the heroes in Hatafjord? 

The ships are covered with shields ; 

victory over King Hrothmar, who had killed his mother's father 
(cf. prose after stanza 5). It has been suggested, in consequence, 
that stanzas lo-ii may be a separate fragment. The verse tells 
nothing of the battle, merely giving Helgi's reproaches to his 
father for having left Svafnir's death and the burning of 
Svavaland unavenged. 

Prose. The manuscript does not indicate any break, but the 
episode which forms the basis of the Hrimgertharmol (stanzas 
12-30) clearly begins with the slaying of the giant Hati ("The 
Hateful"). Hatafjord: "Hati's Fjord." Hrimgerth: "Frost- 
Shrouded" (?). 


Helgakvitha Hjorvarthssonar 

Bravely ye look, and little ye fear, 
The name of the king would I know." 

Atli spake: 

13. "Helgi his name, • and never thou mayst 

Harm to the hero bring; 
With iron is fitted the prince's fleet, 
Nor can witches work us ill." 

Hrimgerth spake: 

14. "Who now, thou mighty man, art thou? 

By what name art thou known to men ? 
He trusts thee well, the prince who wills 
That thou stand at the stem of his ship." 

Atli spake: 

15. "Atli am I, and ill shalt thou find me, 

Great hate for witches I have; 
Oft have I been in the dripping bows, 
And to dusk-riders death have brought. 

16. "Corpse-hungry giantess, how art thou called ? 

Say, witch, who thy father was! 

13. Iron: the keels of Norse ships were sometimes fitted with 
iron "shoes" at bow and stern, but it is not certain that this 
practice much antedated the year 1000, and thus this line has 
raised some question as to the antiquity of this stanza, if not of 
the entire Hrimgertharmol, which may have been composed as 
late as the eleventh century. 

15. The manuscript does not indicate the speaker. The pun 
on "Atli" and "atall" (meaning "ill") is untranslatable. 

[ 279 ] 

Poetic Edda 

Nine miles deeper down mayst thou sink, 
And a tree grow tall on thy bosom." 

Hrimgerth spake: 

17. "Hrimgerth am I, my father was Hati, 

Of giants the most in might ; 
Many a woman he won from her home, 
Ere Helgi hewed him down." 

Atli spake: 

18. "Witch, in front of the ship thou wast, 

And lay before the fjord ; 
To Ron wouldst have given the ruler's men, 
If a spear had not stuck in thy flesh." 

Hrimgerth spake: 

19. "Dull art thou, Atli, thou dreamest, methinks, 

The lids lie over thine eyes; 
By the leader's ships my mother lay, 
Hlothvarth's sons on the sea I slew. 

17. The manuscript does not indicate the speaker. 

18. From this point to the end the manuscript does not indicate 
the speakers. Ron: wife of the sea-god .^^gir, who draws drown- 
ing men into the sea with her net. There is no other reference to 
the wounding of Hrimgerth. 

19. Apparently both Hrimgerth and her mother, Hati's wife, 
had sought to destroy Helgi's ships, and had actually killed some 
of his companions, the sons of ' Hlothvarth, concerning whom 
nothing more is known. Many editors assume that a stanza 
containing a speech by Atli has been lost after stanza 19. 


Helgakvitha Hjorvarthssonar 

20. "Thou wouldst neigh, AtH, but gelded thou art, 

See, Hrimgerth hoists her tail; 
In thy hinder end is thy heart, methinks, 
Though thy speech is a stallion's cry." 


21. "A stallion I seem if thou seekest to try me. 

And I leap to land from the sea; 
I shall smite thee to bits, if so I will, 
And heavy sinks Hrimgerth *s tail." 

Hrimgerth spake: 

22. "Go ashore then, Atli, if sure of thy might. 

Let us come to Varin's cove; 
Straight shall thy rounded ribs be made 
If thou comest within my claws." 

Atli spake: 

23. "I will not go till the warriors wake, 

Again their chief to guard ; 
I should wonder not, foul witch, if up 
From beneath our keel thou shouldst come." 

Hrimgerth spake: 

24. "Awake now, Helgi, and Hrimgerth requite, 

That Hati to death thou didst hew; 

20. Apparently Hrimgerth has assumed the form of a mare. 

22. Varin's cove: the name of Varin appears twice in place 
names in Helgakvitha Hundingsbana I (stanzas 27 and 39). 
The sagas mention a mythical King Varin who lived at Skoru- 
strond in Rogaland (Norway). 


Poetic Edda 

If a single night she can sleep by the prince, 
Then requited are all her ills." 

Helgi spake: 

25. " 'Tis Lothin shall have thee, — thou'rt loath- 

some to men, — 
His home in Tholley he has; 
Of the wild-dwellers worst is the giant wise, 
He is meet as a mate for thee." 

Hrimgerth spake: 

26. "More thou lovest her who scanned the harbor. 

Last night among the men; 
(The gold-decked maid bore magic, methinks. 
When the land from the sea she sought, 
And fast she kept your fleet;) 
She alone is to blame that I may not bring 
Death to the monarch's men." 

Helgi spake : 

27. "Hrimgerth, mark, if thy hurts I requite, 

Tell now the truth to the king; 

25. Of the giant Lothin ("The Shaggy") and his home in 
Tholley ("Pine Island") nothing is known. Cf. Skirnismol, 35. 

26. Something is clearly wrong with this stanza, and the 
manuscript indicates line 6 as the beginning of a new one. 
Perhaps a line (between lines 4 and 5) has been lost, or perhaps 
the lines in parenthesis are interpolations. Hrimgerth here refers 
to Svava, or to the protectress with whom the annotator has 
identified her, as having saved Helgi and his ships from the 
vengeance of the giantesses. In the original line i includes Helgi's 
name, which makes it metrically incorrect. 


Helgakvitha Hjorvarthssonar 

Was there one who the ships of the warrior 
Or did many together go?" 

Hrimgerth spake: 

28. "Thrice nine there were, but one rode first, 

A helmed maid white of hue; 
Their horses quivered, there came from their 
Dew in the dales so deep, 
(Hail on the woods so high, 
Thence men their harvest have, 
But ill was the sight I saw.)" 

Atli spake: 

29. "Look eastward, Hrimgerth, for Helgi has struck 

Down with the runes of death ; 
Safe in harbor floats the prince's fleet. 
And safe are the monarch's men." 

Helgi spake: 

30. "It is day, Hrimgerth, for Atli held thee 

Till now thy life thou must lose ; 

28. Again something is clearly wrong, and the last three lines 
look like interpolations, though some editors have tried to recon- 
struct two full stanzas. The passage suggests the identification 
of the Valkyries with the clouds. 

29. Some editions give this speech to Helgi. Eastivard: Atli 
and Helgi have held Hrimgerth in talk till sunrise, and the 
sun's rays turn her into stone. But dwarfs rather than giants 
were the victims of sunlight; cf. Alvissmol, stanzas 16 and 35. 


Poetic Edda 

As a harbor mark men shall mock at thee, 
Where in stone thou shalt ever stand." 


King Helgi was a mighty warrior. He came to King 
Eylimi and sought the hand of his daughter, Svava. Then 
Helgi and Svava exchanged vows, and greatly they loved 
each other. Svava was at home with her father, while 
Helgi was in the field; Svava was still a Valkyrie as 

Hethin was at home with his father. King Hjorvarth, 
in Norway. Hethin was coming home alone from the 
forest one Yule-eve, and found a troll-woman; she rode 

30. Most editions give this stanza to Atli. With this the 
Hrimgertharmol ends, and after the next prose passage the 
meter reverts to that of the earlier sections. 

Prose. The manuscript does not indicate a new section of 
the poem. Eylimi: cf. note on prose after stanza 9. Valkyrie: 
here, as before, the annotator has apparently nothing but his 
own imagination on which to base his statement. Svava in the 
ensuing stanzas certainly does not behave like a Valkyrie. 
Norivay: the annotator doubtless based this statement on the 
reference to Norway in line 2 of stanza 31. Yule-eve: the Yule 
feast, marking the new year, was a great event in the heathen 
North. It was a time of feasting and merrymaking, vows 
("New Year's resolutions"), ghosts and witches; the spirits had 
their greatest power on Yule-eve. The king's toast: vows made 
at the passing of the king's cup at the Yule feast were particu- 
larly sacred. Sacred boar: a boar consecrated to Freyr, an 
integral part of the Yule rites. Hethin's vow, which is, of 
course, the vengeance of the troll-woman, is too sacred to be 
broken, but he immediately realizes the horror of his oath. 


Helgakvitha Hjorvarthssonar 

on a wolf, and had snakes in place of a bridle. She asked 
Hethin for his company. "Nay," said he. She said, 
"Thou shalt pay for this at the king's toast." That even- 
ing the great vows were taken; the sacred boar was 
brought in, the men laid their hands thereon, and took 
their vows at the king's toast. Hethin vowed that he 
would have Svava, Eylimi's daughter, the beloved of his 
brother Helgi; then such great grief seized him that he 
went forth on wild paths southward over the land, and 
found Helgi, his brother. Helgi said : 

31. "Welcome, Hethin! what hast thou to tell 
Of tidings new that from Norway come ? 
Wherefore didst leave thy land, O prince, 
And fared alone to find us here ?" 

Hethin spake: 

32. "A deed more evil I have done 

Than, brother mine, thou e'er canst mend; 
For I have chosen the child of the king. 
Thy bride, for mine at the monarch's toast." 

31. From Norivay: Bugge uses this phrase as evidence that 
the poem was composed in one of the Icelandic settlements of the 
western islands, but as the annotator himself seems to have 
thought that Hethin came to Helgi by land ("on wild paths 
southward"), this argument does not appear to have much 

32. The second line is conjectural; a line has clearly been 
lost from this stanza, and various emendations have been sug- 


Poetic Edda 

Helgi spake: 

33. "Grieve not, Hethin, for true shall hold 
The words we both by the beer have sworn ; 
To the isle a warrior wills that I go, 
(There shall I come the third night hence;) 
And doubtful must be my coming back, 
(So may all be well, if fate so wills.)" 

Hethin spake: 

34. "Thou saidst once, Helgi, that Hethin was 
A friend full good, and gifts didst give him; 
More seemly it were thy sword to redden, 
Than friendship thus to thy foe to give." 

Helgi spoke thus because he foresaw his death, for his 
following-spirits had met Hethin when he saw the woman 
riding on the wolf. Alf was the name of a king, the son 
of Hrothmar, who had marked out a battle-place with 

33. Perhaps this is the remnant of two stanzas, or perhaps 
two lines (probably the ones in parenthesis) have been interpo- 
lated. The isle: duels were commonly fought on islands, probably 
to guard against treacherous interference, whence the usual name 
for a duel was "isle-going." A duel was generally fought three 
days after the challenge. Reckoning the lapse of time by nights 
instead of days was a common practice throughout the German 
and Scandinavian peoples. 

Prose. Some editors place all or part of this prose passage 
after stanza 35. Follo'wing-spirits : the "fylgja" was a female 
guardian spirit whose appearance generally betokened death. 
The belief was common throughout the North, and has come 
down to recent times in Scottish and Irish folk-lore. Individuals 
and sometimes whole families had these following-spirits, but 
it was most unusual for a person to have more than one of them. 
Alf: son of the Hrothmar who killed Helgi's grandfather, and 

[ 286 ] 

Helgakvitha Hjorvarthssonar 

Helgi at SigarsvoU after a stay of three nights. Then 
Helgi spake: 

35. "On a wolf there rode, when dusk it was, 
A woman who fain would have him follow ; 
Well she knew that now would fall 
Sigrlin's son at SigarsvoU." 

There was a great battle, and there Helgi got a mor- 
tal wound. 

36. Sigar riding did Helgi send 

To seek out Eylimi's only daughter: 

"Bid her swiftly ready to be, 

If her lover alive she would find." 

Sigar spake: 

37. "Hither now has Helgi sent me, 
With thee, Svava, thyself to speak ; 
The hero said he fain would see thee 
Ere life the nobly born should leave." 

Svava spake: 

38. "What chanced with Helgi, Hjorvarth's son? 
Hard to me is harm now come ; 

If the sea smote him, or sword bit him, 
111 shall I bring to all his foes." 

who was in turn later killed by Helgi. SigarsvoU ("Sigar's 
Field"): cf. stanza 8 and note; the Sigar in question may be 
the man who appears as Helgi's messenger in stanzas 36-39. 
36. Sigar ("The Victorious") : cf. the foregoing note. 

[ 287 ] 

Poetic Edda 

Sigar spake: 

39. "In the morn he fell at Frekastein, 

The king who was noblest beneath the sun ; 
Alf has the joy of victory all, 
Though need therefor is never his." 

Helgi spake: 

40. "Hail to thee, Svava! thy sorrow rule. 
Our meeting last in life is this ; 

Hard the wounds of the hero bleed, 

And close to my heart the sword has come. 

41. "I bid thee, Svava, — weep not, bride, — 
If thou wilt hearken to these my words. 
The bed for Hethin have thou ready, 
And yield thy love to the hero young." 

Svava spake: 

42. "A vow I had in my dear-loved home, 
When Helgi sought with rings to have me. 
That not of my will, if the warrior died. 
Would I fold in my arms a man unfamed." 

Hethin spake: 

43. "Kiss me, Svava, I come not back, 

39. Frekastein ("Wolf-Crag") : the name appears several 
times in the Helgi lays applied to battlefields; cf. Helgakvitha 
Hundingsbana I, 46 and 55, and II, 18 and 24. Need: i. e., Alf 
deserves no credit for the victory, which was due to the troU- 
womaa's magic. 


Helgakvitha Hjorvarthssonar 

Rogheim to see, or Rothulsfjoll, 

Till vengeance I have for the son of Hjorvarth, 

The king vi^ho was noblest beneath the sun." 

Of Helgi and Svava it is said that they were bom again. 

41. One or two editors ascribe this stanza to Hethin. 

43. A few editions make the extraordinary blunder of ascrib- 
ing this speech to the dying Helgi. The point, of course, is that 
Hethin will satisfy Svava's vow by becoming famous as the 
slayer of Alf. Rogheim ("Home of Battle") and Rothulsfjoll 
("Sun-Mountain"): nowhere else mentioned; Hethin means 
simply that he will not come back to Svava till he has won fame. 

Prose. Regarding this extraordinary bit see the prose note at 
the end of Helgakvitha Hundingsbana II. Gering thinks the 
reborn Helgi Hjorvarthsson was Helgi Hundingsbane, while 
Svava, according to the annotator himself, became Sigrun. The 
point seems to be simply that there were so many Helgi stories 
current, and the hero died in so many irreconcilable ways, that 
tradition had to have him born over again, not once only but 
several times, to accommodate his many deaths, and to avoid 
splitting him up into several Helgis. Needless to say, the poems 
themselves know nothing of this rebirth, and we owe the sugges- 
tion entirely to the annotator, who probably got it from current 



The First Lay of Helgi Hundingsbane 

Introductory Note 
The general subject of the Helgi lays is considered in the 
introduction to Helgakvitha Hjorvarthssonar, and it is needless 
here to repeat the statements there made. The first lay of Helgi 
Hundingsbane is unquestionably one of the latest of the Eddie 
poems, and was composed probably not earlier than the second 
quarter of the eleventh century. It presents several unusual 
characteristics. For one thing, it is among the few essentially 
narrative poems in the whole collection, telling a consecutive 
story in verse, and, except for the abusive dialogue between 
Sinfjotli and Gothmund, which clearly was based on another 
and older poem, it does so with relatively little use of dialogue. 
It is, in fact, a ballad, and in the main an exceedingly vigorous 
one. The annotator, who added his prose narrative notes so 
freely in the other Helgi poems, here found nothing to do. The 
available evidence indicates that narrative verse was a relatively 
late development in Old Norse poetry, and it is significant that 
most of the poems which consist chiefly, not of dialogue, but of 
narrative stanzas, such as the first Helgi Hundingsbane lay and 
the two Atli lays, can safely be dated, on the basis of other 
■^ evidence, after the year looo. 

The first Helgi Hundingsbane lay is again differentiated 
from most of the Eddie poems by the character of its language. 
It is full of those verbal intricacies which were the delight of 
the Norse skalds, and which made Snorri's dictionary of poetic 
phrases an absolute necessity. Many of these I have paraphrased 
in the translation; some I have simplified or wholly avoided. 
A single line will serve to indicate the character of this form 
of complex diction (stanza 56, line 4) : "And the horse of the 
giantess raven's-food had." This means simply that wolves 
(giantesses habitually rode on wolves) ate the bodies of the dead. 
Except for its intricacies of diction, and the possible loss 
of a stanza here and there, the poem is comparatively simple. 
The story belongs in all its essentials to the Helgi tradition, 
with the Volsung cycle brought in only to the extent of making 
Helgi the son of Sigmund, and in the introduction of Sinfjotli, 
son of Sigmund and his sister Signy, in a passage which has 


Helgakvitha Hundingsbana I 

little or nothing to do with the course of the narrative, and 
which looks like an expansion of a passage from some older 
poem, perhaps from the "old Volsung la)r" to which the annotator 
of the second Helgi Hundingsbane lay refers (prose after stanza 
12). There are many proper names, some of which betray 
the confusion caused by the blending of the two sets of traditions ; 
for example, Helgi appears indiscriminately as an Ylfing 
(which presumably he was before the Volsung story became 
involved) and as a Volsung. Granmar and his sons are called 
Hniflungs (Nibelungen) in stanza 50, though they seem to have 
had no connection with this race. The place names have aroused 
much debate as to the localization of the action, but while some 
of them probably reflect actual places, there is so much geo- 
graphical confusion, and such a profusion of names which are 
almost certainly mythical, that it is hard to believe that the poet 
had any definite locations in mind. 

1. In olden days, when eagles screamed. 
And holy streams from heaven's crags fell, 
Was Helgi then, the hero-hearted", 
Borghild's son, in Bralund bom. 

2. 'Twas night in the dwelling, and Norns there 

Who shaped the life of the lofty one ; 
They bade him most famed of fighters all 
And best of princes ever to be. 

1. The manuscript contains the superscription: "Here begins 
the lay of Helgi Hundingbane and h. (Hothbrodd ?) The lay 
of the Volsungs." Eagles, etc.; the screaming of eagles and water 
pouring from heaven were portents of the birth of a hero. 
Borghild: Sigmund's first wife; Bralund was her home, not 

2. Norns: cf. Voluspo, 20 and note. Here it is the Norns who 


Poetic Edda 

3. Mightily wove they the web of fate, 
While Bralund's towns were trembling all; 
And there the golden threads they wove, 
And in the moon's hall fast they made them. 

4. East and west the ends they hid, 

In the middle the hero should have his land ; 
And Neri's kinswoman northward cast 
A chain, and bade it firm ever to be. 

5. Once sorrow had the Ylfings' son, 

And grief the bride who the loved one had borne. 

Quoth raven to raven, on treetop resting, 
Seeking for food, "There is something I know. 

preside over Helgi's early destiny, and not a Valkyrie, as in 
Helgakvitha Hjorvarthssonar. 

3. Line 2 Is largely guesswork, the manuscript being obscure. 
Moon's hall: the sky. 

4. East, etc.: the Norns give Helgi fame in the East, West, 
and North; in the North his renown is particularly to endure. 
This suggests that the poet was aware of the spread of the 
Helgi story over many lands. Neri's kinsiuoman: evidently one 
of the Norns, but nothing further is known of Neri, and the 
word may not be a proper name at all. 

5. The manuscript indicates no gap, but it looks as though 
something had been lost after line 2. Ylfings' son: Sigmund is 
evidently meant, though calling him an Ylfing (cf. Hyndluljoth, 
u and note) is a manifest error. Helgi, in the tradition as it 
came from Denmark, was undoubtedly an Ylfing, and the poet, 
in order to combine the two legends, has to treat the Ylfings and 
Volsungs as if they were the same family. 


Helgakvitha Hundingsbana I 

6. "In mail-coat stands the son of Sigmund, 
A half-day old ; now day is here ; 

His eyes flash sharp as the heroes' are, 

He is friend of the wolves ; full glad are we." 

7. The warrior throng a ruler thought him, 
Good times, they said, mankind should see ; 
The king himself from battle-press came, 
To give the prince a leek full proud. 

8. Helgi he named him, and Hringstathir gave him, 
SolfjoU, Snaefjoll, and Sigarsvoll, 
Hringstoth, Hotun, and Himinvangar, 

And a blood-snake bedecked to Sinf jotli's brother. 

6. Sigmund: the chief link between the Helgi and Sigurth 
stories. He was the son of Volsung, great-grandson of Othin. 
His children by his first wife, Borghild, were Helgi and Hamund 
(belonging to the Helgi cycle) ; his son by his second wife, 
Hjordis, was Sigurth. An incestuous connection with his sister, 
Signy (cf. Wagner's Siegmund and Sieglinde) resulted in the 
birth of Sinfjotli (cf. Fra Dautha Sinfjotla and note). 

7. The king: Sigmund, who gives his son a symbol of the 
lands which he bestows on him. Regarding the leek, cf. Voluspo, 
4; Guthrunark'vitha I, 17, and Sigrdrifumol, 7. 

8. Hringstathir ("Ring-Stead") : quite possibly the historical 
Ringsted, long a possession of the Danish kings, and thus a relic 
of the old Helgi tradition. Hringstoth may be another form of the 
same name. SolfjoU ("Sun-Mountain") and Snafjoll ("Snow- 
Mountain") are fictitious names. Regarding Sigarsvoll cf. Hel- 
gakvitha Hjorvarthssonar, stanzas 8 and 35. Saxo mentions a 
Danish king named Sigar, and the frequency with which the name 
appears in the Helgi poems may be taken as a reminiscence of 
Denmark. Hotun ("High Place") : possibly the village of Tune in 
Seeland. Himinvangar ("Heaven's Field") : an imaginary place. 
Blood-snake: a sword. Sinfjotli: cf. note on stanza 6. 


Poetic Edda 

9. Mighty he grew in the midst of his friends, 
The fair-born elm, in fortune's glow; 
To his comrades gold he gladly gave, 

, The hero spared not the blood-flecked hoard. 

10. Short time for war the chieftain waited. 
When fifteen winters old he was ; 
Hunding he slew, the hardy wight 
Who long had ruled o'er lands and men. 

11. Of Sigmund's son then next they sought 
Hoard and rings, the sons of Hunding; 
They bade the prince requital pay 

For booty stolen and father slain. 

12. The prince let not their prayers avail, 

Nor gold for their dead did the kinsmen get ; 
Waiting, he said, was a mighty storm 
Of lances gray and Othin's grimness. 

13. The warriors forth to the battle went, 
The field they chose at Logaf joll ; 

9. Elm: a not uncommon word for "man." Blood-flecked: i.e., 
won in battle. 

10. Fifteen: until early in the eleventh century a Norwegian 
or Icelandic boy became "of age" at twelve, and Maurer cites 
this passage as added proof of the poem's lateness. Hunding: 
the annotator (introductory prose to Helgakvitha Hundingsbana 
II) calls him king of Hundland, which shows no great origi- 
nality. Saxo mentions a Hunding who was a Saxon king ruling 
in Jutland, probably the origin of Helgi's traditional foe. 

12. Storm, etc.: war. 

13. Logaf joll ("Flame-Mountain") : a mythical name. Frothi: 


Helgakvitha Hundingsbana I 

Frothi's peace midst foes they broke, 

Through the isle went hungrily Vithrir's hounds. 

14. The king then sat, when he had slain 
Eyjolf and Alf, 'neath the eagle-stone; 
Hjorvarth and Hovarth, Hunding's sons, 
The kin of the spear-wielder, all had he killed. 

15. Then glittered light from Logafjoll, 
And from the light the flashes leaped; 


High under helms on heaven's field ; 
Their byrnies all with blood were red. 
And from their spears the sparks flew forth. 

a traditional king of Denmark, whose peaceful reign was so 
famous that "Frothi's peace" became a by-word for peace of 
any kind. Vithrir's hounds: wolves; Vithrir is Othin, and his 
hounds are the wolves Freki and Geri. 

14. In this poem Helgi kills all the sons of Hunding, but in 
the poems of the Sigurth cycle, and the prose notes attached 
thereto, Sigmund and his father-in-law, Eylimi, are killed by 
Hunding's sons, on whom Sigurth subsequently takes vengeance 
(cf. Fra Dautha Sinfjotla and Reg'insmol) . 

15. No gap indicated in the manuscript, but almost certainly 
something has been lost mentioning more specifically the coming 
of the Valkyries. The lightning which accompanies them suggests 
again their identification with the clouds (cf. Helgakvitha Hjor- 
varthssonar, 28). 

16. Some editions fill out the first line: "He saw there mighty 
maidens riding." The manuscript indicates line 4 as the begin- 
ning of a new stanza. 

r 295 1 

Poetic Edda 

17. Early then in wolf-wood asked 

The mighty king of the southern maid, 
If with the hero home would she 
Come that night ; the weapons clashed. 

18. Down from her horse sprang Hogni's daugh- 

ter, — 
The shields were still, — and spake to the hero : 
"Other tasks are ours, methinks. 
Than drinking beer with the breaker of rings. 

19. "My father has pledged his daughter fair 
As bride to Granmar's son so grim ; 
But, Helgi, I once Hothbrodd called 

As fine a king as the son of a cat. 

17. Wolf-wood: dark forest; the original word is not alto- 
gether clear. Southern: this variety of Valkyrie, like the swan- 
maidens of the Vblundarkvitha, was clearly regarded as of 
southern (i.e., German) origin. Here again there is a confusion 
of traditions; the Valkyries of the Foluspo were as essentially 
Norse as any part of the older mythology. I doubt if a poet much 
earlier than the author of the first Helgi Hundingsbane lay 
would have made his Sigrun, daughter of Hogni, a Valkyrie. 
It is to be noted that the same complication appears in the 
Sigurth story, where the undoubted Valkyrie, Brynhild-Sigrdrifa 
(the latter name is really only an epithet) is hopelessly mixed 
up with the quite human Brynhild, daughter of Buthli. 

18. Breaker of rings: generous prince, because the breaking 
of rings was the customary form of distributing gold. 

19. Granmar: the annotator gives an account of him and his 
family in the prose following stanza 12 of Helgakvitha Hund- 
ingsbana II. 

20. No gap indicated in the manuscript; some editors combine 
the stanza with the fragmentary stanza 21, and others fill in 
with "And home will carry Hogni's daughter." 


Helgakvitha Hundingsbana I 

20. "Yet the hero will come a few nights hence, 

Unless thou dost bid him the battle-ground seek, 
Or takest the maid from the warrior mighty." 

Helgi spake: 

21. "Fear him not, though Isung he felled, 
First must our courage keen be tried. 
Before unwilling thou fare with the knave ; 
Weapons will clash, if to death I come not." 

22. Messengers sent the mighty one then, 
By land and by sea, a host to seek, 
Store of wealth of the water's gleam, 
And men to summon, and sons of men. 

23. "Bid them straightway seek the ships, 
And off Brandey ready to be!" 

There the chief waited till thither were come 
Men by hundreds from Hethinsey. 

21. The manuscript has only lines i and 4 with the word 
"first" of line 2, and does not indicate Helgi as the speaker. 
The Volsungasaga, which follows this poem pretty closely, ex- 
pands Helgi's speech, and lines 2-3 are conjectural versifications 
of the saga's prose. Isung: nothing is known of him beyond the 
fact, here indicated, that Hothbrodd killed him. 

22. Water's gleam: gold. 

23. Brandey ("Brand-Isle") : not mentioned elsewhere. Heth- 
insey ("Hethin's Isle"): possibly the island of Hiddensee, east 
of Riigen. 


Poetic Edda 

24. Soon off Stafnsnes stood the ships, 
Fair they glided and gay with gold ; 
Then Helgi spake to Hjorleif asking: 
"Hast thou counted the gallant host?" 

25. The young king answered the other then: 
"Long were it to tell from Tronueyr 

The long-stemmed ships with warriors laden 
That corile from without into Orvasund. 


"There are hundreds twelve of trusty men, 
But in Hotun lies the host of the king. 
Greater by half ; I have hope of battle." 

27. The ship's-tents soon the chieftain struck, 
And waked the throng of warriors all; 

24. Stafnsnes ("Steersman's Cape") : an unidentifiable prom- 
ontory. Fair: a guess, as the adjective in the manuscript is 
obscure. Hjorleif does not appear elsewhere, and seems to be 
simply one of Helgi's lieutenants. 

25. Tronueyr: "Crane-Strand." Long-stemmed: literally 
"long-headed," as the high, curving stem of a Norse ship was 
often carved to represent a head and neck. Orvasund: almost cer- 
tainly the Danish Oresund, off Seeland. Such bits of geography 
as this followed Helgi persistently. 

26. No gap indicated in the manuscript. Hotun: of. stanza 8 
and note. 

27. Line 3 seems to have been interpolated from line 4 of 
Helgakvitha Hundingsbana II, 42. Ship's-tents: the awnings 
spread over the deck to shelter the crews from sun and rain when 
the ships were at anchor. Varinsfjord: cf. Helgakvitha Hjor- 
varthssonar, 22 and note. 


Helgakvitha Hundingsbana I 

(The heroes the red of dawn beheld;) 
And on the masts the gallant men 
Made fast the sails in Varinsfjord. 

28. There was beat of oars and clash of iron, 
Shield smote shield as the ships'-folk rowed ; 
Swiftly went the warrior-laden 

Fleet of the ruler forth from the land. 

29. So did it sound, when together the sisters 
Of Kolga struck with the keels full long, 
As if cliffs were broken with beating surf. 

30. Helgi bade higher hoist the sails, 

Nor did the ships'-folk shun the waves, 
Though dreadfully did iEgir's daughters 
Seek the steeds of the sea to sink. 

31. But from above did Sigrun brave 
Aid the men and all their faring; 

28. The manuscript indicates line 3 as the beginning of a 
new stanza, and some editions follow this arrangement, making 
lines 1-2 a separate stanza. 

29. The manuscript indicates no gap, and some editions com- 
bine the stanza with lines 3-4 of stanza 28. Sisters of Kolga: 
the waves, Kolga ("The Gold") being one of the daughters of 
the sea-god, ^gir. As the Volsungasaga says, "Now there was 
a great storm." 

30. Helgi demonstrates his courage, whatever one may think 
of his seamanship. JEgir's daughters: the waves; cf. stanza 29 
and note. 


Poetic Edda 

Mightily came from the claws of Ron 
The leader's sea-beast off Gnipalund. 

32. At evening there in Unavagar 

Floated the fleet bedecked full fair; 
But they who saw from Svarin's hill, 
Bitter at heart the host beheld. 

SS. Then Gothmund asked, goodly of birth, , 

"Who is the monarch who guides the host, 
And to the land the warriors leads?" 

34. Sinfjotli answered, and up on an oar 
Raised a shield all red with golden rim; 

31. Sigrun here appears again as a Valkyrie. Ron: ^gir's 
wife; cf. Helgakvitha Hjorvarthssonar, 18 and note. Sea-beast: 
ship. Gnipalund: "Crag-Wood." 

32. Unavagar: "Friendly Waves." Svarin's hill: the hill 
where Granmar had his dwelling. 

33. Here begins the long dialogue between Gothmund, one 
of Granmar's sons, and Sinfjotli, Helgi's half-brother. Two 
lines (stanza 33, lines 3-4) are quoted by the annotator in the 
prose note following stanza 16 of the second Helgi Hundings- 
bane lay, and the dialogue, in much abbreviated form, together 
with Helgi's admonition to Sinfjotli to cease talking, is closely 
paralleled in stanzas 22-27 of t^^^ poem. It has been suggested 
that this whole passage (stanzas 33-48) is an interpolation, per- 
haps from "the Old Volsung lay." This may be, but it seems 
more probable that the poet used an older poem simply as the 
basis for this passage, borrowing a little but making up a great 
deal more. The manuscript indicates no gap in stanza 33. 

34. Sinfjotli: cf. note on stanza 6. Red: raising a red shield 
was the signal for war. 

[ 300 ] 

Helgakvitha Hundingsbana I 

A sea-sentry was he, skilled to speak, 
And in words with princes well to strive. 

35. "Say tonight when you feed the swine, 
And send your bitches to seek their swill, 
That out of the East have the Ylfings come, 
Greedy for battle, to Gnipalund. 

36. "There will Hothbrodd Helgi find. 

In the midst of the fleet, and flight he scorns ; 

Often has he the eagles gorged, 

Whilst thou at the quern wert slave-girls kissing." 

Gothmund spake: 

37. "Hero, the ancient sayings heed, 
And bring not lies to the nobly born. 

38. "Thou hast eaten the entrails of wolves, 
And of thy brothers the slayer been ; 
Oft wounds to suck thy cold mouth sought. 
And loathed in rocky dens didst lurk." 

35. Ylfings: cf. stanza 5 and note. 

36. Quern: turning the hand mill was, throughout antiquity, 
the task of slaves. 

37. The manuscript does not name the speakers in this 
dialogue. No gap indicated in the manuscript, and editors have 
attempted various combinations of stanzas 37 and 38. 

38. Wolves: the Volsungasaga tells that Sigmund and Sinf- 
jotli lived in the woods for a time as werewolves. Brothers: 


Poetic Edda 

Sinfjotli spake: 

39. "A witch in Varin's isle thou wast, 

A woman false, and lies didst fashion; 

Of the mail-clad heroes thou wouldst have 

No other, thou saidst, save Sinfjotli only. 

40. "A Valkyrie wast thou, loathly witch. 
Evil and base, in Allfather's home; 
The warriors all must ever fight. 

Woman subtle, for sake of thee. 


Nine did we in Sogunes 

Of wolf-cubs have ; I their father was." 

Sinfjotli killed the two sons of his mother, Signy, and her hus- 
band, Siggeir, as part of the vengeance wreaked on Siggeir 
for the treacherous murder of Sigmund's father, Volsung, and 
nine of his brothers (cf. Fra Dautha Sinfjotla and note). The 
manuscript marks line 3 as the beginning of a new stanza. 

39. Varin's isle: cf. stanza 27 and note, and Helgakvitha 
Hjorvarthssonar, 22. Reproaching a man with having been a 
woman and borne children was not uncommon. 

40. This stanza may be an interpolation in the dialogue 
passage. Allfather: Othin. We have no information regarding 
Gothmund's career, but it looks as though Sinfjotli were drawing 
solely on his imagination for his taunts, whereas Gothmund's 
insults have a basis in Sinfjotli's previous life. 

41. No gap indicated in the manuscript; some editors com- 
bine the two lines with stanza 40, some regard them as the first 
instead of the last lines of a separate stanza, and some assume 
the lacuna here indicated. Sogunes ("Saga's Cape") : of the god- 
dess Saga little is known ; cf. Grimnismol, 7. 


Helgakvitha Hundingsbana I 

Gothmund spake: 

42. "Thou didst not father Fenrir's- wolves, 
Though older thou art than all I know ; 
For they gelded thee in Gnipalund, 
The giant-women at Thorsnes once. 

43. "Under houses the stepson of Siggeir lay, 
Fain of the wolf's cry out in the woods ; 
Evil came then all to thy hands, 

When thy brothers' breasts thou didst redden, 
Fame didst thou win for foulest deeds. 

44. "In BravoU wast thou Grani's bride. 
Golden-bitted and ready to gallop; 

I rode thee many a mile, and down 

Didst sink, thou giantess, under the saddle." 

Sinfjotli spake: 

45. "A brainless fellow didst seem to be, 
When once for Gollnir goats didst milk, 

42. Fenrir's-ijjolves : wolves in general. Thorsnes: "Thor's 

43. The phrase "under houses," which follows the manuscript, 
may be an error for "in wolf-caves." Line 3 (or 4) may be an 
interpolation. The manuscript indicates line 5 as the beginning 
of a new stanza. Siggeir: cf. stanza 38, note. 

44. Several editions assign this stanza to Sinfjotli instead of 
to Gothmund. BravoU ("Field of the Brow") : not elsewhere men- 
tioned in the poems. Grani: Sigurth's horse (cf. Volundarkvitha, 
16 and note) ; Gothmund means that Sinfjotli had turned into a 
mare, after the fashion of Loki (cf. Grimnismol, 44, note). The 
meaning of line 4 in the original is uncertain. 

45. A few editions give this stanza to Gothmund. Gollnir: 


Poetic Edda 

And another time when as Imth's daughter 
In rags thou wentest; wilt longer wrangle?" 

Gothmund spake: 

46. "Sooner would I at Frekastein 
Feed the ravens with flesh of thine 
Than send your bitches to seek their swill, 
Or feed the swine ; may the fiends take you !" 

Helgi spake: 

47. "Better, Sinfjotli, thee 'twould beseem 
Battle to give and eagles to gladden. 
Than vain and empty words to utter, 
Though ring-breakers oft in speech do wrangle. 

48. "Good I find not the sons of Granmar, 

But for heroes 'tis seemly the truth to speak ; 

At Moinsheimar proved the men 

That hearts for the wielding of swords they had." 

49. Mightily then they made to run 
Sviputh and Sveggjuth to Solheimar; 

possibly a giant. Imth: nothing is known of him or his daughter. 

46. A few editions give this stanza to Sinfjotli. Frekastein: 
cf. Helgakvitha Hjorvarthssonar, 39 and note. A stanza may 
have been lost after stanza 46, parallel to stanza 25 of the second 
Helgi Hundingsbane lay. 

47. Ring'breakers : cf. stanza 18 and note. 

48. Moinsheimar: a battlefield of which nothing is known, 
where, however, the sons of Granmar appear to have fought 

49. Here the scene shifts to the shore among Hothbrodd's fol- 


Helgakvitha Hundingsbana I 

(By dewy dales and chasms dark, 
Mist's horse shook where the men went by;) 
The king they found at his courtyard gate, 
And told him the foeman fierce was come. 

50. Forth stood Hothbrodd, helmed for battle, 
Watched the riding of his warriors; 

"Why are the Hniflungs white with fear?" 

Gothmund spake: 
51. "Swift keels lie hard by the land, 
(Mast-ring harts and mighty yards, 
Wealth of shields and well-planed oars ; ) 
The king's fair host, the Ylfings haughty; 
Fifteen bands to land have fared. 
But out in Sogn are seven thousand. 

lowers. Sviputh and Sveggjuth ("Swift" and "Lithe") : horses' 
names. Mist's horse: the Valkyrie's name is the same as the Eng- 
lish word "mist," and the "horse" on which the mist rides is the 
earth. The two lines in parenthesis may be interpolated, or line 5 
may begin a new stanza, as the manuscript indicates. 

50. No gap indicated in the manuscript. Hniflungs: of. intro- 
ductory note. 

51. Lines 2-3 may be interpolated, or a new stanza may begin, 
as the manuscript indicates, with line 5. Many editors combine 
lines 5-6 with all or part of stanza 52. Possibly Gothmund is not 
the speaker. Mast-ring harts: ships, so called from the ring at- 
taching the yard to the mast. Ylfings: cf. stanza 5 and note. Sogn: 
this name, which actually belongs in western Norway, seems to 
have been used here with no particular significance. 

52. The manuscript indicates line 3 as beginning a new 
stanza ; some editors combine lines 3-4 with all or part of stanza 


Poetic Edda 

52. "At anchor lying off Gnipalund 

Are fire-beasts black, all fitted with gold; 
There wait most of the foeman's men, 
Nor will Helgi long the battle delay." 

Hothbrodd spake: 

53. "Bid the horses run to the Reginthing, 
Melnir and Mylnir to Myrkwood now, 
(And Sporvitnir to Sparinsheith;) 

Let no man seek henceforth to sit 

Who the flame of wounds knows well to wield. 

54. "Summon Hogni, the sons of Hring, 
Atli and Yngvi and Alf the Old ; 
Glad they are of battle ever ; 
Against the Volsungs let us go." 

53, while others assume the loss of two lines following line 4. 
Fire-beasts: dragons, i.e., ships. The Norse ships of war, as dis- 
tinguished from merchant vessels, were often called dragons 
because of their shape and the carving of their stems. 

53. The manuscript does not indicate the speaker, and a few 
editors assume the loss of one or two lines embodying the phrase 
"Hothbrodd spake." In the manuscript line 3, which many editors 
have suspected of being spurious, stands before line 2. Possibly 
lines 4-5 are the remains of a separate stanza. Reginthing ("The 
Great Council"): apparently the council-place for the whole - 
country, as distinct from the local council, or "herathsthing." 
Melnir ("Bit-Bearer"), Mylnir ("The Biter") and Spornvitnir 

("Spur- Wolf") : horses' names. Myrkivood: a not uncommon 
name for a dark forest; cf. Lokasenna, 42, and Atlakvitha, 3. 
Sparinsheith ("Sparin's Heath") : nothing more is known of 
Sparin or his heath. Flame of wounds: sword. 

54. Hogni: the father of Sigrun; cf. Helgakvitha Hundings- 


Helgakvitha Hundingsbana I 

55. Swift as a storm there smote together 
The flashing blades at Frekastein ; 
Ever was Helgi, Hunding's slayer, 

First in the throng where warriors fought; 
(Fierce in battle, slow to fly. 
Hard the heart of the hero was.) 

56. From heaven there came the maidens helmed, — 
The weapon-clang grew, — who watched o'er the 

Spake Sigrun fair, — the wound-givers flew, 
And the horse of the giantess raven's-food had : — 

57. "Hail to thee, hero! full happy with men, 
Offspring of Yngvi, shalt ever live. 

For thou the fearless foe hast slain 

Who to many the dread of death had brought. ^ 

bana II, 18. Of Hring and his sons nothing further is known. 
Volsungs: here for the first time the poet gives Helgi and 
Sinfjotli the family name to which, as sons of Sigmund Vol- 
sungsson, they are entitled. 

55. The manuscript indicates line 5 as the beginning of a new 
stanza, but many editors have rejected lines 5-6 as spurious, while 
others regard them as the first half of a stanza the last two lines 
of which have been lost. 

56. Wound-givers: probably this means "Valkyries," but there 
is considerable doubt as to the original word. Horse, etc.: i.e., the 
wolf (because giantesses customarily had wolves for their steeds) 
ate corpses (the food of birds of prey). 

57. Yngvi: one of the sons of Halfdan the Old, and traditional 
ancestor of the Ynglings, with whom the Ylfings seem to have 
been confused (cf. Hynduljoth, 11 and note). The confusion be- 
tween the Ylfings (or Ynglings) and Volsungs was carried far 

[ 307 ] 

Poetic Edda 

58. "Warrior, well for thyself hast won 
Red rings bright and the noble bride; 
Both now, warrior, thine shall be, 
Hogni's daughter and Hringstathir, 
Wealth and triumph ; the battle wanes." 

enough so that SIgurth himself is once called a descendant of 
Yngvi {Reginsmol, 14). Gering identifies the name of Yngvi with 
the god Freyr, but the Volsungs certainly claimed descent from 
Othin, not Freyr, and there is nothing to indicate that Helgi in 
the Danish tradition was supposed to be descended from Freyr, 
whereas his descent from Yngvi Halfdansson fits well with the 
rest of his story. However, cf. Sigurtharkvitha en skamma, 24 and 

58. This entire stanza may be an interpolation; nearly every 
edition has a different way of dealing with it. Hringstathir: as 
this place had been given to Helgi by his father (cf. stanza 8 
and note), the poet has apparently made a mistake in naming it 
here as a conquest from Granmar's sons, unless, indeed, they 
had previously captured it from Helgi, which seems unlikely. 



The Second Lay of Helgi Hundingsbane 

Introductory Note 

As the general nature of the Helgi tradition has been consid- 
ered in the introductory note to Helgakvitha Hjorvarthssonar, 
it is necessary here to discuss only the characteristics of this 
particular poem. The second Helgi Hundingsbane lay is in most 
respects the exact opposite of the first one: it is in no sense con- 
secutive; it is not a narrative poem, and all or most of it gives 
evidence of relatively early composition, its origin probably going 
well back into the tenth century. 

It is frankly nothing but a piece of, in the main, very clumsy 
patchwork, made up of eight distinct fragments, pieced together 
awkwardly by the annotator with copious prose notes. One of 
these fragments (stanzas 13-16) is specifically identified as 
coming from "the old Volsung lay." What was that poem, and 
how much more of the extant Helgi-lay compilation was taken 
from it, and did the annotator know more of it than he included 
in his patchwork? Conclusive answers to these questions have 
baffled scholarship, and probably always will do so. My own 
guess is that the annotator knew little or nothing more than he 
wrote down ; having got the first Helgi Hundingsbane lay, which 
was obviously in fairly good shape, out of the way, he proceeded 
to assemble all the odds and ends of verse about Helgi which he 
could get hold of, putting them together on the basis of the nar- 
rative told in the first Helgi lay and of such stories as his knowl- 
edge of prose sagas may have yielded. 

Section I (stanzas 1-4) deals with an early adventure of 
Helgi's, in which he narrowly escapes capture when he ventures 
into Hunding's home in disguise. Section II (stanzas 5-12) is a 
dialogue between Helgi and Sigrun at their first meeting. Sec- 
tion III (stanzas 13-16, the "old Volsung lay" group) is another 
dialogue between Helgi and Sigrun when she invokes his aid to 
save her from Hothbrodd. Section IV (stanzas 17-21), which 
may well be from the same poem as Section III, is made up of 
speeches by Helgi and Sigrun after the battle in which Hothbrodd 
is killed; stanza 21, however, is certainly an interpolation from 
another poem, as it is in a different meter. Section V (stanzas 
22-27) ^s the dispute between Sinfjotli and Gothmund,, evidently 


Poetic Edda 

in an older form than the one included in the first Helgl Hun- 
dingsbane lay. Section VI (stanzas 28-37) gives Dag's speech to 
his sister, Sigrun, telling of Helgi's death, her curse on her 
brother and her lament for her slain husband. Section VII 
(stanza 38) is the remnant of a dispute between Helgi and 
Hunding, here inserted absurdly out of place. Section VIII 
(stanzas 39-50) deals with the return of the dead Helgi and 
Sigrun's visit to him in the burial hill. 

Sljmons maintains that sections I and II are fragments of the 
Kara lay mentioned by the annotator in his concluding prose 
note, and that sections IV, VI, and VIII are from a lost Helgi- 
Sigrun poem, while Section III comes, of course, from the "old 
Volsung lay." This seems as good a guess as any other, conclu- 
sive proof being quite out of the question. 

Were it not for sections VI and VIII the poem would be little 
more than a battle-ground for scholars, but those two sections 
are in many ways as fine as anything in Old Norse poetry. 
Sigrun's curse of her brother for the slaying of Helgi and her 
lament for her dead husband, and the extraordinary vividness 
of the final scene in the burial hill, have a quality which fully 
offsets the baffling confusion of the rest of the poem. 

King Sigmund, the son of Volsung, had as wife Borg- 
hild, from Bralund. They named their son Helgi, after 
Helgi Hjorvarthsson; Hagal was Helgi's foster-father. 
Hunding was the name of a powerful king, and Hund- 
land is named from him. He was a mighty warrior, and 
had many sons with him on his campaigns. There was 
enmity and strife between these two, King Hunding and 

Prose. In the manuscript the poem is headed "Of the Vol- 
sungs," but most editions give it the title used here. Sigmund: cf. 
Helgakvitha Hundingsbana I, 6 and note, which also mentions 
Volsung. Borghild and Bralund: cf. Helgakviiha Hundingsbana 
I, I and note. Helgi: the annotator's explanation that the child 


Helgakvitha Hundingsbana II 

King Sigmund, and each slew the other's kinsmen. King 
Sigmund and his family were called Volsungs and Ylfings. 
Helgi went as a spy to the home of King Hunding in 
disguise. Haeming, a son of King Hunding's, was at 
home. When Helgi went forth, then he met a young 
herdsman, and said: 

I. "Say to Haeming that Helgi knows 
Whom the heroes in armor hid ; 
A gray wolf had they within their hall. 
Whom King Hunding Hamal thought." 

Hamal was the name of Hagal's son. King Hunding 

was named after Helgi Hjorvarthsson is a naive way of getting 
around the difficulties created by the two sets of Helgi stories. 
He might equally well have said that the new Helgi was the old 
one born again, as he accounts for Sigrun in this way ("she was 
Svava reborn"). Hagal: not elsewhere mentioned; it was a 
common custom to have boys brought up by foster-parents. Hun- 
ding and Hundland: cf. Helgakvitha Hundingsbana I, lo and 
note. Volsungs and Ylfings: regarding this confusion of family 
names ci. Helgakvitha Hundingsbana I, 5 and note. Haming: his 
name does not appear in the list of Hunding's sons. It is quite 
possible that these opening stanzas (1-4) do not refer to Hunding 
at all. 

I. Helgi appears to have stayed with Hunding under the 
name of Hamal, but now, thinking himself safe, he sends word 
of who he really is. Hunding: it has been suggested that the 
compiler may have inserted this name to fit what he thought the 
story ought to be, in place of Haeming, or even Hadding, If 
stanzas 1-4 are a fragment of the Karuljoth {Lay of Kara), this 
latter suggestion is quite reasonable, for in that poem, which we 
do not possess, but which supplied material for the compilers of 
the Hromundar saga Greipssonar, Helgi appears as Helgi Had- 
dingjaskati (cf. final prose note). Nothing beyond this one name 
connects stanzas 1-4 with Hunding. 


Poetic Edda 

sent men to Hagal to seek Helgi, and Helgl could not 
save himself in any other way, so he put on the clothes 
of a bond-woman and set to work at the mill. They 
sought Helgi but found him not. 

2. Then Blind spake out, the evil-minded: 

"Of Hagal's bond-woman bright are the eyes; 
Yon comes not of churls who stands at the quern ; 
The millstones break, the boards are shattered. 

3. "The hero has a doom full hard, 
That barley now he needs must grind ; 
Better befits his hand to feel 

The hilt of the sword than the millstone's handle." 

Hagal answered and said: 

4. "Small is the wonder if boards are splintered ; 
By a monarch's daughter the mill is turned; 

Prose. Hagal: Helgi's foster-father, who naturally protects 

2. The manuscript indicates line 2 as the beginning of the 
stanza, the copyist evidently regarding line i as prose. This has 
caused various rearrangements in the different editions. Blind: 
leader of the band sent to capture Helgi. 

3. The manuscript marks line 3 as the beginning of a stanza. 
Barley: the word literally means "foreign grain," and would 
afford an interesting study to students of early commerce. 

4. Possibly two stanzas with one line lost, or perhaps the lines 
in parenthesis are spurious; each editor has his own guess. 
Sigar and Hogni: it seems unlikely that Hagal refers to the 
Hogni who was Sigrun's father, for this part of the story has 
nothing whatever to do with Sigrun. As Hagal is, of course, de- 


Helgakvitha Hurldingsbana II 

Once through clouds she was wont to ride, 

And battles fought like fighting men, 

(Till Helgi a captive held her fast ; 

Sister she is of Sigar and Hogni, 

Thus bright are the eyes of the Ylfings' maid.) ' 

Helgi escaped and went to a fighting ship. He slew 
King Hunding, and thenceforth was called Helgi Hund- 


He lay with his host in Brunavagar, and they had there 
a strand-slaughtering, and ate the flesh raw. Hogni was 
the name of a king. His daughter was Sigrun; she was 
a Valkyrie and rode air and water ; she was Svava reborn. 
Sigrun rode to Helgi's ship and said: 

5. "Who rules the ship by the shore so steep? 
Where is the home ye warriors have ? 
Why do ye bide in Brunavagar, 
Or what the way that ye wish to try?" 

liberately lying, it is useless to test any part of his speech for 

Prose. No division indicated in the manuscript. Brunavagar 
("Bruni's Sea") : mentioned only in this section. Strand-slaughter- 
ing: a killing on the shore of cattle stolen in a raid. Hogni and 
Sigrun: cf. Helgakvitha Hundingsbana I, i-j and note; the anno- 
tator's notion of Sigrun as the reincarnated Svava (cf. Helga- 
kvitha Hjorvarthssonar, concluding prose note) represents a 
naive form of scholarship. There is nothing in stanzas 5-12 
which clearly identifies Sigrun as a Valkyrie, or which, except 
for the last line of stanza 12, identifies the speaker as Sigrun. 
Some editors, therefore, call her simply "the Valkyrie," while 


Poetic Edda 

Helgi spake: 
"Hamal's the ship by the shore so steep, 
Our home in Hlesey do we have ; 
For fair wind bide we in Brunavagar, 
Eastward the way that we wish to try." 

Sigrun spake: 
"Where hast thou, warrior, battle wakened, 
Or gorged the birds of the sisters of Guth ? 
Why is thy bymie spattered with blood, 
Why helmed dost feast on food uncooked?" 

Helgi spake: 
"Latest of all, the Ylfings' son 
On the western sea, if know thou wilt. 
Captured bears in Bragalund, 
And fed the eagles with edge of sword. 
Now is it shown why our shirts are bloody. 
And little our food with fire is cooked." 

Vigfusson, -who thinks this section is also a remnant of the Karu- 
Ijoth, calls her Kara. 

6. The manuscript does not indicate the speakers. Hamal: 
Helgi's assumption of this name seems to link this section 
(stanzas 5-12) with stanza i. Hlesey ("Island of Hler" — i.e., 
.^gir, the sea-god) : generally identified as the Danish island of 
Laso; cf. Harbarthsljoth, 37 and note. 

7. Guth: a Valkyrie (cf. Voluspo, 31) ; the birds of her sisters 
are the kites and ravens. 

8. The manuscript indicates line 5 as the beginning of a new 
stanza; some editors reject lines 1-2, while others make lines 5-6 
into a fragmentary stanza. Ylfings: cf. introductory prose and 
note. Bragalund ("Bragi's Wood") : a mythical place. Bears: 
presumably Berserkers, regarding whom cf. Hyndluljoth, 23. 


Helgakvitha Hundingsbana II 

Sigrun spake: 
9. "Of battle thou tellest, and there was bent 
Hunding the king before Helgi down; 
There was carnage when thou didst avenge thy 

And blood flowed fast on the blade of the sword." 

Helgi spake: 

10. "How didst thou know that now our kin, 
Maiden wise, we have well avenged? 
Many there are of the sons of the mighty 
Who share alike our lofty race." 

Sigrun spake: 

11. "Not far was I from the lord of the folk, 
Yester morn, when the monarch was slain ; 
Though crafty the son of Sigmund, methinks. 
When he speaks of the fight in slaughter-runes. 

12. "On the long-ship once I saw thee well. 
When in the blood-stained bow thou wast, 

10. Helgi's meaning in lines 3-4 is that, although he has al- 
ready declared himself an Ylfing (stanza 8, line i), there are 
many heroes of that race, and he does not understand how Sigrun 
knows him to be Helgi. 

11. Slaughter-runes : equivocal or deceptive speech regarding 
the battle. The word "rune" had the meaning of "magic" or 
"mystery^' long before it was applied to the signs or characters 
with which it was later identified. 

12. Some editors reject line 3, others line 5. The manuscript 
omits Helgi's name in line 5, thereby destroying both the sense 
and the meter. Vigfusson, following his Karuljoth theory (cf. 


Poetic Edda 

(And round thee icy waves were raging;) 

Now would the hero hide from me, 

But to Hogni's daughter is Helgi known." 


Granmar was the name of a mighty king, who dwelt 
at Svarin's hill. He had many sons; one was named 
Hothbrodd, another Gothmund, a third Starkath. Hoth- 
brodd was in a kings' meeting, and he won the promise of 
having Sigrun, Hogni's daughter, for his wife. But when 
she heard this, she rode with the Valkyries over air and 
sea to seek Helgi. Helgi was then at Logafjoll, and had 
fought with Hunding's sons ; there he killed Alf and 
Eyolf, Hjorvarth and Hervarth. He was all weary with 
battle, and sat under the eagle-stone. There Sigrun found 
him, and ran to throw her arms about his neck, and kissed 
him, and told him her tidings, as is set forth in the old 
Volsung lay : 

13. Sigrun the joyful chieftain sought, 
Forthwith Helgi's hand she took; 

note on prose following stanza 4), changes Hogni to Half dan, 
father of Kara. 

Prose. The manuscript indicates no division. Most of this 
prose passage is evidently based on Helgakvitha Hundingsbana 
I ; the only new features are the introduction of Starkath as a 
third son of Granmar, which is clearly an error based on a mis- 
understanding of stanza 19, and the reference to the kings' meet- 
ing, based on stanza 15. Kings' meetings, or councils, were by no 
means unusual ; the North in early days was prolific in kings. 
For the remaining names, cf. Helgakvitha Hundingsbana I: 


Helgakvitha Hundingsbana II 

She greeted the hero helmed and kissed him, 
The warrior's heart to the woman turned. 

14. From her heart the daughter of Hogni spake, 
Dear was Helgi, she said, to her; 

"Long with all my heart I loved 
Sigmund's son ere ever I saw him. 

15. ''At the meeting to Hothbrodd mated I was, 
But another hero I fain would have ; 
Though, king, the wrath of my kin I fear, 
Since I broke my father's fairest wish." 

Helgi spake: 

1 6. "Fear not ever Hogni's anger, 

Nor yet thy kinsmen's cruel wrath ; 
Maiden, thou with me shalt live. 
Thy kindred, fair one, I shall not fear." 

Granmar, stanza 19; Hothbrodd, stanza 19; Gothmund, stanza 
33; Svarin's hill, stanza 32; Logafjoll, stanza 13; Alf, Eyjolf, 
Hjorvarth and Hervartk, stanza 14. The old Volsung lay: cf. 
Introductory Note. 

13. Some editions combine lines 3-4, or line 4, with part of 
stanza 14. 

14. The lines of stanzas 14 and 15 are here rearranged In 
accordance with Bugge's emendation; in the manuscript they 
stand as follows: lines 3-4 of stanza 14; stanza 15; lines 1-2 of 
stanza 14. This confusion has given rise to various editorial 

Prose. The manuscript indicates no division. Here again, the 
annotator has drawn practically all his information from Helga- 


Poetic Edda 


Helgi then assembled a great sea-host and went to 
Frekastein. On the sea he met a perilous storm; light- 
ning flashed overhead and the bolts struck the ship. They 
saw in the air that nine Valkyries were riding, and recog- 
nized Sigrun among them. Then the storm abated, and 
they came safe and sound to land. Granmar's sons sat 
on a certain mountain as the ships sailed toward the land. 
Gothmund leaped on a horse and rode for news to a 
promontory near the harbor; the Volsungs were even 
then lowering their sails. Then Gothmund said, as is 
written before in the Helgi lay: 

"Who is the king who captains the fleet. 
And to the land the warriors leads ?" 

Sinfjotli, Sigmund's son, answered him, and that too 
is written. 

Gothmund rode home with his tidings of the host; 

kvitha Hundingsbana I, which he specifically mentions and even 
quotes. The only new features are the names of Hogni's sons, 
Bragi and Dag. Bragi is mentioned in stanza i8, though it is not 
there stated that he is Hogni's son. Dag, who figures largely in 
stanzas 28-34, is a puzzle, for the verse never names him, and it 
is an open question where the annotator got his name. Freka- 
stein: cf. Helgakvii/ia Hjorvarthssonar, 39 and note. As is lurit- 
ten: the two lines are quoted, with a change of two words, from 
Helgak'vitha Hundingsbana I, 33. Sinfjotli: cf. Helgakvitha 
Hundingsbana I, 6 and note, and stanzas 33-48, in which the 
whole dialogue is given. Loyalty: apparently the annotator got 
this bit of information out of stanza 29, in which Sigrun refers to 
the oaths which her brother had sworn to Helgi. 


Helgakvitha Hundingsbana II 

then Granmar's sons summoned an army. Many kings 
came there; there were Hogni, Sigrun's father, and his 
sons Bragi and Dag. There was a great battle, and all 
Granmar's sons were slain and all their allies; only Dag, 
Hogni's son, was spared, and he swore loyalty to the 
Volsungs. Sigrun went among the dead and found Hoth- 
brodd at the coming of death. She said: 

17. "Never shall Sigrun from SevafjoU, 
Hothbrodd king, be held in thine arms; 
Granmar's sons full cold have grown, 

And the giant-steeds gray on corpses gorge." 

Then she sought out Helgi, and was full of joy He said : 

18. "Maid, not fair is all thy fortune. 
The Norns I blame that this should be ; 
This morn there fell at Frekastein 
Bragi and Hogni beneath my hand. 

19. "At Hlebjorg fell the sons of Hrollaug, 
Starkath the king at Styrkleifar; 

17. SevafjoU ("Wet Mountain") : mentioned only in this 
poem. Giant-steeds: wolves, the usual steeds of giantesses; cf. 
Helgakvitha Hundingsbana I, 56. 

18. Maid: the word thus rendered is the same doubtful one 
which appears in Volundarkvitha, i and 5, and which may mean 
specifically a Valkyrie (Gering translates it "helmed" or "he- 
roic") or simply "wise." Cf. Volundarkvitha, note on introduc- 
tory prose. Norns: cf. Voluspo, 20 and note. In stanza 33 Dag 
similarly lays the blame for the murder he has committed on 
Othin. Bragi: probably Sigrun's brother. 

19. This stanza looks like an interpolation, and there is little 


Poetic Edda 

Fighters more noble saw I never, 

The body fought when the head had fallen. 

20. "On the ground full low the slain are lying, 
Most are there of the men of thy race ; 
Nought hast thou won, for thy fate it was 
Brave men to bring to the battle-field." 

Then Sigrun wept. Helgi said: 

21, "Grieve not, Sigrun, the battle is gained, 

The fighter can shun not his fate." 

Sigrun spake: 
"To life would I call them who slaughtered lie, 
If safe on thy breast I might be." 

or nothing to connect it with the slaying of Granmar's sons. In 
the manuscript line 2, indicated as the beginning of a stanza, 
precedes line x. Hlebjorg ("Sea-Mountain") and Styrkleifar 
("Battle-Cliffs") : place names not elsewhere mentioned. Of 
Hrollaug's sons nothing further is known. Starkath: this name 
gives a hint of the origin of this stanza, for Saxo Grammaticus 
tells of the slaying of the Swedish hero Starkath ("The Strong") 
the son of Storverk, and describes how his severed head bit the 
ground in anger (cf. line 4). In all probability this stanza is 
from an entirely different poem, dealing with the Starkath story, 
and the annotator's attempt to identify the Swedish hero as a 
third son of Granmar is quite without foundation. 

21. The difference of meter would of itself be enough to indi- 
cate that this stanza comes from an entirely different poem. A 
few editions assign the whole stanza to Helgi, but lines 3-4 are 
almost certainly Sigrun's, and the manuscript begins line 3 with a 
large capital letter following a period. 


Helgakvitha Hundingsbana II 
This Gothmund the son of Granmar spoke : 

22. "What hero great is guiding the ships? 
A golden flag on the stem he flies ; 

I find not peace in the van of your faring, 
And round the fighters is battle-light red." 

Sinfjotli spake: 

23. "Here may Hothbrodd Helgi find, 

The hater of flight, in the midst of the fleet ; 

The home of all thy race he has. 

And over the realm of the fishes he rules." 

22. With this stanza begins the dispute between Gothmund 
and Sinfjotli which, together with Helgi's rebuke to his half- 
brother, appears at much greater length in Helgakvitha Hun- 
dingsbana I, 33-48. It is introduced here manifestly in the wrong 
place. The version here given is almost certainly the older of the 
two, but the resemblance is so striking, and in some cases (nota- 
bly in Helgi's rebuke) the stanzas are so nearly identical, that it 
seems probable that the composer of the first Helgi Hundingsbane 
lay borrowed directly from the poem of which the present dia- 
logue is a fragment. Flag: the banner ("gunnfani," cf. "gon- 
falon") here serves as the signal for war instead of the red 
shield mentioned in Helgakvitha Hundingsbana I, 34. Battle- 
light: perhaps the "northern lights." 

23. Lines 3-4 are obscure, and in the manuscript show signs 
of error. Helgi had not at this time, so far as we know, conquered 
any of Hothbrodd's land. The realm of the fishes, in line 4, pre- 
sumably means the sea, but the word here translated "fishes" is 
obscure, and many editors treat it as a proper name, "the realm 
of the Fjorsungs," but without further suggestion as to who or 
what the Fjorsungs are. 


Poetic Edda 

Gothmund spake: 

24. "First shall swords at Frekastein 
Prove our worth in place of words ; 
Time is it, Hothbrodd, vengeance to have, 
If in battle worsted once we were." 

Sinfjotli spake: 

25. "Better, Gothmund, to tend the goats, 
And climb the rocks of the mountain cliffs ; 
A hazel switch to hold in thy hand 

More seemly were than the hilt of a sword." 

Helgi spake: 

26. "Better, Sinfjotli, thee 'twould beseem 
Battles to give, and eagles to gladden. 
Than vain and empty speech to utter, 
Though warriors oft with words do strive. 

27. "Good I find not the sons of Granmar, 

But for heroes 'tis seemly the truth to speak; 
At Moinsheimar proved the men 
That hearts for the wielding of swords they had, 
(And ever brave the warriors are.)" 

24. The word here translated sivords 5s a conjectural emenda- 
tion ; the manuscript implies merely an invitation to continue the 
quarrel at Frekastein. Hothbrodd: apparently he is here consid- 
ered as present during the dispute; some editors, in defiance of 
the meter, have emended the line to mean "Time is it for Hoth- 
brodd vengeance to have." 

26-27. Cf. Helgakvitha Hundingsbana I, 47-48, which are 
nearly identical. Stanza 27 in the manuscript is abbreviated to 
the first letters of the words, except for line 5, which does not 
appear in the other poem, and which looks like an interpolation. 


Helgakvitha Hundingsbana II 


Helgi took Sigrun to wife, and they had sons. Helgi 
did not reach old age. Dag, the son of Hogni, offered sac- 
rifice to Othin to be avenged for his father's death ; Othin 
gave Dag his spear. Dag found Helgi, his brother-in- 
law, at a place which is called Fjoturlund. He thrust 
the spear through Helgi's body. Then Helgi fell, and 
Dag rode to SevafjoU and told Sigrun the tidings: 

28. "Sad am I, sister, sorrow to tell thee, 
Woe to my kin unwilling I worked ; 
In the morn there fell at Fjoturlund 
The noblest prince the world has known, 
(And his heel he set on the heroes' necks.)" 

Sigrun spake: 

29. "Now may every oath thee bite 
That with Helgi sworn thou hast, 
By the water bright of Leipt, 
And the ice-cold stone of Uth. 

Prose. Here begins a new section of the poem, dealing with 
Helgi's death at the hands of Dag, Sigrun's brother. The note is 
based wholly on stanzas 28-34, except for the introduction of 
Dag's name (cf. note on prose following stanza 16), and the 
reference to Othin's spear, the weapon which made victory cer- 
tain, and which the annotator brought in doubtless on the strength 
of Dag's statement that Othin was responsible for Helgi's death 
(stanza 33). Fjoturlund ("Fetter-Wood"): mentioned only here 
and in stanza 28. 

28. Line 5 looks like an interpolation. 

29. Leipt: this river is mentioned in Grimnismol, 28. Uth: a 


Poetic Edda 

30. "The ship shall sail not in which thou sailest, 
Though a favoring wind shall follow after; 
The horse shall run not whereon thou ridest, 

Though fain thou art thy foe to flee. 


"The sword shall bite not which thou bearest, 
Till thy head itself it sings about. 

32. "Vengeance were mine for Helgi's murder, 
Wert thou a wolf in the woods without, 
Possessing nought and knowing no joy, 
Having no food save corpses to feed on." 

Dag spake: 

33. "Mad art thou, sister, and wild of mind, 
Such a curse on thy brother to cast ; 
Othin is ruler of every ill, 

Who sunders kin with runes of spite. 

34. "Thy brother rings so red will give thee, 
AH Vandilsvc and Vigdalir; 

daughter of the sea-god JEgir; regarding her sacred stone we 
know nothing. According to the annotator, Dag's life had been 
spared because he swore loyalty to Helgi. 

31. No gap indicated in the manuscript, but most editors have 
assumed that either the first or the last two lines have been lost. 
Bugge adds a line: "The shield shall not help thee which 

diou holdest." 

34. Vandilive ("Vandil's Shrine) : who Vandil was we do not 


Helgakvitha Hundingsbana II 

Take half my land to pay the hann. 
Ring-decked maid, and as meed for thy sons.* 

Siffrun spake: 

35. "I shall sit not happy at SevafjoU, 
Early or late, my life to love, 

If the li^t cannot show, in the leader's band, 
Vigblser bearing him back to his home, 
(The golden-bitted; I shall greet him never.) 

36. "Such the fear that Helgi's foes 
Ever felt, and all their kin. 

As makes the goats with terror mad 
Run from the wolf among the rocks. 

37. "Helgi rose above heroes all 

Like the lofty ash above lowly thorns. 

Or the noble stag, with dew be^rinkled, 

Bearing his head above all beasts, 

(And his horns gleam bright to heaven itself.)'* 

A hill was made in Helgi's memory. And when he 

know; this and Vigdalir ("B«ttle-D*le") «re purely m3rthica! 

35. Line 5 may be spurious. FifH^tr ("Battle-Breather") : 
Helgi's horse. 

37. Line 5 (or possibly line 4) may be spurious. Cf. Gmtk- 
minurivithm I, ty, and GutkruMMrhniAm II, a. 

Pfse. Fmikmilt etc: there is no indication as to where the 
annotator got diis notion of Helgi's sharing Othin's rule. It is 


Poetic Edda 

came to Valhall, then Othin bade him rule over every- 
thing with himself. 

Helgi said : 

38. "Thou shalt, Hunding, of every hero 
Wash the feet, and kindle the fire, 
Tie up dogs, and tend the horses. 
And feed the swine ere to sleep thou goest." 


One of Sigrun's maidens went one evening to Helgi's 
hill, and saw that Helgi rode to the hill with many men. 
The maiden said : 

39. "Is this a dream that methinks I see. 

Or the doom of the gods, that dead men ride, 

most unlikely that such an idea ever found place in any of the 
Helgi poems, or at least in the earlier ones; probably it was a 
late development of the tradition in a period when Othin was no 
longer taken seriously. 

38. This stanza apparently comes from an otherwise lost 
passage containing a contest of words between Helgi and Hun- 
ding; indeed the name of Hunding may have been substituted 
for another one beginning with "H," and the stanza originally 
have had no connection with Helgi at all. The annotator inserts it 
here through an obvious misunderstanding, taking it to be Helgi's 
application of the power conferred on him by Othin. 

39. Here begins the final section (stanzas 39-50), wherein 
Sigrun visits the dead Helgi in his burial hill. Doom of the gods: 
the phrase "ragna rok" has been rather unfortunately Anglicized 
into the work "ragnarok" (the Norse term is not a proper name), 


Helgakvitha Hundingsbana II 

And hither spurring urge your steeds, 

Or is home-coming now to the heroes granted?" 

Helgi spake: 

40. "No dream is this that thou thinkest to see, 
Nor the end of the world, though us thou behold- 

And hither spurring we urge our steeds. 
Nor is home-coming now to the heroes granted." 

The maiden went home and said to Sigrun : 

41. "Go forth, Sigrun, from Sevafjoll, 

If fain the lord of the folk wouldst find ; 
(The hill is open, Helgi is come;) 
The sword-tracks bleed ; the monarch bade 
That thou his wounds shouldst now make well." 

Sigrun went in the hill to Helgi, and said : 

42. "Now am I glad of our meeting together. 
As Othin's hawks, so eager for prey. 
When slaughter and flesh all warm they scent. 
Or dew-wet see the red of day. 

and r'ok, "doom," has been confused with rokkr, "darkness," and 
so translated "dusk of the Gods," or "Gotterdammerung." 

40. In the manuscript most of this stanza is abbreviated to 
the first letters of the words. 

41. Line 3 (or possibly line 2) may be spurious. Sivord-tracks: 
wounds. One edition places stanza 48 after stanza 41, and an- 
other does the same with stanza 50. 


Poetic Edda 

43. "First will I kiss the lifeless king, 
Ere off the bloody byrnie thou cast ; 
With frost thy hair is heavy, Helgi, 

And damp thou art with the dew of death ; 
(Ice-cold hands has Hogni's kinsman, 
What, prince, can I to bring thee ease?)" 

Helgi spake: 

44. "Thou alone, Sigrun of Sevafjoll, 

Art cause that Helgi with dew is heavy; 
Gold-decked maid, thy tears are grievous, 
(Sun-bright south-maid, ere thou sleepest;) 
Each falls like blood on the hero's breast, 
(Burned-out, cold, and crushed with care.) 

45. "Well shall we drink a noble draught. 
Though love and lands are lost to me ; 
No man a song of sorrow shall sing. 
Though bleeding wounds are on my breast ; 

43. Possibly lines 5-6 are spurious, or part of a stanza the 
rest of which has been lost. It has also been suggested that two 
lines may have been lost after line 2, making a new stanza of 
lines 3-6. Kinsman: literally "son-in-law." 

44. Lines 4 and 6 have been marked by various editors as 
probably spurious. Others regard lines 1-2 as the beginning of a 
stanza the rest of which has been lost, or combine lines 5-6 with 
lines 5-6 of stanza 45 to make a new stanza. South-maid: cf. 
Helgakvitha Hundingsbana I, 17 and note. 

45. Both lines 3-4 and lines 5-6 have been suspected by editors 
of being interpolated, and the loss of two lines has also been 
suggested. Brides: the plural here is perplexing. Gering insists 
that only Sigrun is meant, and translates the word as singular, 
but both "brides" and "loves" are uncompromisingly plural in 


Helgakvitha Hundingsbana II 

Now in the hill our brides we hold, 
The heroes' loves, by their husbands dead." 

Sigrun made ready a bed in the hill. 

46. "Here a bed I have made for thee, Helgi, 

To rest thee from care, thou kin of the Ylfings ; 
I will make thee sink to sleep in my arms. 
As once I lay with the living king." 

Helgi spake: 
\']. "Now do I say that in Sevafjoll 
Aught may happen, early or late. 
Since thou sleepest clasped in a corpse's arms. 
So fair in the hill, the daughter of Hogni ! 
( Living thou comest, a daughter of kings. ) 

48. "Now must I ride the reddened ways. 
And my bay steed set to tread the sky ; 
Westward I go to wind-helm's bridges. 

Ere Salgofnir wakes the warrior throng." 

Then Helgi and his followers rode on their way, and 

the text. Were the men of Helgi's ghostly following likewise vis- 
ited by their wives? The annotator may have thought so, for in 
the prose he mentions the "women" returning to the house, al- 
though, of course, this may refer simply to Sigrun and the maid. 

47. Line 5 (or possibly line 4) may be interpolated. 

48. Wind-helm: the sky; the bridge is Bifrost, the rainbow 
(cf. Grimnismol, 29). Salgofnir ("Hall-Crower") : the cock Gol- 
linkambi who awakes the gods and warriors for the last battle. 

[ 329 ] 

Poetic Edda 

the women went home to the dwelling. Another evening 
Sigrun bade the maiden keep watch at the hill. And at 
sunset when Sigrun came to the hill she said : 

49. "Now were he come, if come he might, 
Sigmund's son, from Othin's seat ; 
Hope grows dim of the hero's return 
When eagles sit on the ash-tree boughs, 

And men are seeking the meeting of dreams." 

The Maiden said: 

50. "Mad thou wouldst seem alone to seek, 
Daughter of heroes, the house of the dead ; 
For mightier now at night are all 

The ghosts of the dead than when day is bright." 

Sigrun was early dead of sorrow and grief. It was 
believed in olden times that people were born again, but 
that is now called old wives' folly. Of Helgi and Sigrun 
it is said that they were born again; he became Helgi 
Haddingjaskati, and she Kara the daughter of Halfdan, 
as is told in the Lay of Kara, and she was a Valkyrie. 

49. Many editors assign this speech to the maid. Line 5 (or 4) 
may be spurious. Meeting of dreams ("Dream-Thing") : sleep. 

Prose. The attitude of the annotator is clearly revealed by 
his contempt for those who put any faith in such "old wives' 
folly" as the idea that men and women could be reborn. As in the 
case of Helgi Hjorvarthsson, the theory of the hero's rebirth 
seems to have developed in order to upite around a single Helgi 


Helgakvitha Hundingsbana II 

the various stories in which the hero is slain. The Lay of Kara 
(Karuljoth) is lost, although, as has been pointed out, parts of 
the Helgakvitha Hundingsbana H may be remnants of it, but we 
find the main outlines of the story in the Hromundar saga 
Greipssonar, whose compilers appear to have known the Karu- 
ljoth. In the saga Helgi Haddingjaskati (Helgi the Haddings'- 
Hero) is protected by the Valkyrie Kara, who flies over him in 
the form of a swan (note once more the Valkyrie swan-maiden 
confusion) ; but in his fight with Hromund he swings his sword 
so high that he accidentally gives Kara a mortal wound, where- 
upon Hromund cuts off his head. As this makes the third recorded 
death of Helgi (once at the hands of Alf, once at those of Dag, 
and finally in the fight with Hromund), the phenomenon of his 
rebirth is not surprising. The points of resemblance in all the 
Helgi stories, including the one told in the lost Karuljoth, are 
sufficiently striking so that it is impossible not to see in them a 
common origin, and not to believe that Helgi the son of Hjor- 
varth, Helgi the son of Sigmund and Helgi the Haddings'-Hero 
(not to mention various other Helgis who probably figured in 
songs and stories now lost) were all originally the same Helgi 
who appears in the early traditions of Denmark. 



Of Sinfjotlis Death 

Introductory Note 

It has been pointed out that the Helgi tradition, coming origi- 
nally from Denmark, was early associated with that of the 
Volsungs, which was of German, or rather of Frankish, origin 
(cf. Introductory Note to Helgakvhha Hjorvarthssonar). The 
connecting links between these two sets of stories were few in 
number, the main point being the identification of Helgi as a 
son of Sigmund Volsungsson. Another son of Sigmund, however, 
appears in the Helgi poems, though not in any of the poems deal- 
ing with the Volsung cycle proper. This is Sinfjotli, whose sole 
function in the extant Helgi lays is to have a wordy dispute with 
Gothmund Granmarsson. 

Sinfjotli's history is told in detail in the early chapters of the 
Volsung as ag a. The twin sister of Sigmund Volsungsson, Signy, 
had married Siggeir, who hated his brother-in-law by reason of 
his desire to possess a sword which had belonged to Othin and 
been won by Sigmund. Having treacherously invited Volsung 
and his ten sons to visit him, Siggeir slew Volsung and cap- 
tured his sons, who were set in the stocks. Each night a wolf 
("some men say that she was Siggeir's mother") came out of the 
woods and ate up one of the brothers, till on the tenth night 
Sigmund alone was left. Then, however, Signy aided him to 
escape, and incidentally to kill the wolf. He vowed vengeance on 
Siggeir, and Signy, who hated her husband, was determined to 
help him. Convinced that Sigmund must have a helper of his 
own race, Signy changed forms with a witch, and in this guise 
sought out Sigmund, who, not knowing who she was, spent three 
nights with her. Thereafter she gave birth to a boy, whom she 
named Sinfjotli ("The Yellow-Spotted"?), whom she sent to 
Sigmund. For a time they lived in the woods, occasionally turning 
into wolves (whence perhaps Sinfjotli's name). When Sinfjotli 
was full grown, he and his father came to Siggeir's house, but 
were seen and betrayed by the two young sons of Signy and Sig- 
geir, whereupon Sinfjotli slew them. Siggeir promptly had Sig- 
mund and Sinfjotli buried alive, but Signy managed to smuggle 
Sigmund's famous sword into the grave, and with this the father 
and son dug themselves out. The next night they burned Siggeir's 

Fra Dautha Sinfjotla 

house, their enemy dying in the flames, and Signy, who had at 
the last refused to leave her husband, from a sense of somewhat 
belated loyalty, perishing with him. 

Was this story, which the Volsungasaga relates in considerable 
detail, the basis of an old poem which has been lost? Almost 
certainly it was, although, as I have pointed out, many if not 
most of the old stories appear to have been handed down rather 
in prose than in verse, for the Volsungasaga quotes two lines of 
verse regarding the escape from the grave. At any rate, Sinfjotli 
early became a part of the Volsung tradition, which, in turn, 
formed the basis for no less than fifteen poems generally included 
in the Eddie collection. Of this tradition we may recognize three 
distinct parts: the Volsung-Sigmund-Sinfjotli story; the Helgi 
story, and the Sigurth story, the last of these three being by far 
the most extensive, and suggesting an almost limitless amount of 
further subdivision. With the Volsung-Sigmund-Sinfjotli story 
the Sigurth legend is connected only by the fact that Sigurth 
appears as Sigmund's son by his last wife, Hjordis; with the 
Helgi legend it is not connected directly at all. Aside from the 
fact that Helgi appears as Sigmund's son by his first wife, Borg- 
hild, the only link between the Volsung story proper and that of 
Helgi is the appearance of Sinfjotli in two of the Helgi poems. 
Originally it is altogether probable that the three stories, or 
sets of stories, were entirely distinct, and that Sigurth (the 
familiar Siegfried) had little or nothing more to do with the 
Volsungs of northern mythological-heroic tradition than he had 
with Helgi. 

The annotator or compiler of the collection of poems preserved 
in the Codex Regius, having finished with the Helgi lays, had 
before him the task of setting down the fifteen complete or frag- 
mentary poems dealing with the Sigurth story. Before doing 
this, however, he felt it incumbent on him to dispose of both 
Sigmund and Sinfjotli, the sole links with the two other sets 
of stories. He apparently knew of no poem or poems concerning 
the deaths of these two; perhaps there were none, though this is 
unlikely. Certainly the story of how Sinfjotli and Sigmund died 
was current in oral prose tradition, and this story the compiler set 
forth in the short prose passage entitled Of Sinfjotti's Death 
which, in Regius, immediately follows the second lay of Helgi 
Hundingsbane. The relation of this passage to the prose of the 
Reginsmol is discussed in the introductory note to that poem. 

Poetic Edda 

Sigmund, the son of Volsung, was a king in the land of 
the Franks; Sinfjotli was his eldest son, the second was 
Helgi, and the third Hamund. Borghild, Sigmund's wife, 

had a brother who was named . Sinfjotli, her stepson, 

and both wooed the same woman, wherefore Sinfjotli 

slew him. And when he came home, Borghild bade him 
depart, but Sigmund offered her atonement-money, and 
this she had to accept. At the funeral feast Borghild 
brought in ale; she took poison, a great horn full, and 
brought it to Sinfjotli. But when he looked into the horn, 
he saw that it was poison, and said to Sigmund: "Muddy 
is the drink. Father!" Sigmund took the horn and drank 
therefrom. It is said that Sigmund was so hardy that 
poison might not harm him, either outside or in, but all 
his sons could withstand poison only without on their skin. 
Borghild bore another horn to Sinfjotli and bade him 
drink, and all happened as before. And yet a third time 
she brought him a horn, and spoke therewith scornful 

Prose. Regarding Sigmund, Sinfjotli, and Volsung see Intro- 
ductory Note. The Franks: although the Sigurth story had 
reached the North as early as the sixth or seventh century, it 
never lost all the marks of its Prankish origin. Helgi and 
Hamund: sons of Sigmund and Borghild; Helgi is, of course 
Helgi Hundingsbane; of Hamund nothing further is recorded. 
Borghild: the manuscript leaves a blank for the name of her 
brother; evidently the compiler hoped some day to discover it 
and write it in, but never did. A fev? editions insert wholly 
unauthorized names from late paper manuscripts, such as Hroar, 
Gunnar, or Borgar. In the Volsungasaga Borghild bids Sinfjotli 
drink "if he has the courage of a Volsung." Sigmund gives his 
advice because "the king was very drunk, and that was why he 
spoke thus." Gering, on the other hand, gives Sigmund credit 
for having believed that the draught would deposit its poisonous 


Fra Dautha Sinfjotla 

words of him if he should not drink from it. He spoke as 
before with Sigmund. The latter said: "Let it trickle 
through your beard, Son!" Sinfjotli drank, and straight- 
way was dead. Sigmund bore him a long way in his arms, 
and came to a narrow and long fjord, and there was a 
little boat and a man in it. He offered to take Sigmund 
across the fjord. But when Sigmund had borne the corpse 
out into the boat, then the craft was full. The man told 
Sigmund to go round the inner end of the fjord. Then the 
man pushed the boat off, and disappeared. 

King Sigmund dwelt long in Denmark in Borghild's 
kingdom after he had married her. Thereafter Sigmund 
went south into the land of the Franks, to the kingdom 
which he had there. There he married Hjordis, the daugh- 
ter of King EyHmi ; their son was Sigurth. King Sigmund 
fell in a battle with the sons of Hunding, and Hjordis 
then married Alf the son of King Hjalprek. There Sigurth 
grew up in his boyhood. Sigmund and all his sons were 
far above all other men in might and stature and courage 
and every kind of ability. Sigurth, however, was the fore- 
most of all, and all men call him in the old tales the 
noblest of mankind and the mightiest leader. 

contents in Sinfjotli's beard, and thus do him no harm. Boat: 
the man who thus carries off the dead Sinfjotli in his boat is pre- 
sumably Othin. Denmark: Borghild belongs to the Danish Helgi 
part of the story. The Franks: with this the Danish and Norse 
stories of Helgi and Sinfjotli come to an end, and the Frankish 
story of Sigurth begins. Sigmund's two kingdoms are an echo 
of the blended traditions. Hjordis: just where this name came 
from is not clear, for in the German story Siegfried's mother 
is Sigelint, but the name of the father of Hjordis, Eylimi, gives 
a clew, for Eylimi is the father of Svava, wife of Helgi Hjor- 

[335 J 

Poetic Edda 

varthsson. Doubtless the two men are not identical, but it 
seems likely that both Eylimi and Hjordis were introduced into 
the Sigmund-Sigurth story, the latter replacing Sigelint, from 
some version of the Helgi tradition. Hunding: in the Helgi lays 
the sons of Hunding are all killed, but they reappear here and 
in two of the poems {Gripisspo, 9, and Reginsmol, 15), and the 
Volsungasaga names Lyngvi as the son of Hunding who, as the 
rejected lover of Hjordis, kills Sigmund and his father-in-law, 
Eylimi, as well. The episode of Hunding and his sons belongs 
entirely to the Danish (Helgi) part of the story; the German 
legend knows nothing of it, and permits the elderly Sigmund to 
outlive his son. There was doubtless a poem on this battle, for 
the Volsungasaga quotes two lines spoken by the dying Sigmund 
to Hjordis before he tells her to give the pieces of his broken 
sword to their unborn son. Alf: after the battle, according to the 
Volsungasaga, Lyngvi Hundingsson tried to capture Hjordis, but 
she was rescued by the sea-rover Alf, son of King Hjalprek of 
Denmark, who subsequently married her. Here is another trace 
of the Danish Helgi tradition. The Nornageststhattr briefly tells 
the same story. 



Gripir's Prophecy 

Introductory Note 

The Gripisspo immediately follows the prose Fra Dautha 
Sinfjotla in the Codex Regius, and is contained in no other early 
manuscript. It is unquestionably one of the latest of the poems 
in the Eddie collection; most critics agree in calling it the latest 
of all, dating it not much before the year 1200. Its author (for 
in this instance the word may be correctly used) was not only 
familiar with the other poems of the Sigurth cycle, but seems to 
have had actual written copies of them before him; it has, indeed, 
been suggested, and not without plausibility, that the Gripisspo 
may have been written by the very man who compiled and anno- 
tated the collection of poems preserved in the Codex Regius. 

In form the poem is a dialogue between the youthful Sigurth 
and his uncle, Gripir, but in substance it is a condensed outline 
of Sigurth's whole career as told piecemeal in the older poems. 
The writer was sufficiently skillful in the handling of verse, but 
he was utterly without inspiration ; his characters are devoid of 
vitality, and their speeches are full of conventional phrases, 
with little force or incisiveness. At the same time, the poem is of 
considerable interest as giving, in brief form, a summary of the 
story of Sigurth as it existed in Iceland (for the Gripisspo is 
almost certainly Icelandic) in the latter half of the twelfth 

It is not desirable here to go in detail into the immensely 
complex question of the origin, growth, and spread of the story of 
Sigurth (Siegfried). The volume of critical literature on the 
subject is enormous, and although some of the more patently 
absurd theories have been eliminated, there are still wide diver- 
gencies of opinion regarding many important points. At the same 
time, a brief review of the chief facts is necessary in order to 
promote a clearer understanding of the poems which follow, and 
which make up more than a third of the Eddie collection. 

That the story of Sigurth reached the North from Germany, 
having previously developed among the Franks of the Rhine 
country, is now universally recognized. How and when it spread 
from northwestern Germany into Scandinavia are less certainly 
known. It spread, indeed, in every direction, so that traces of it 

m7^ , 

Poetic Edda 

are found wherever Prankish influence was extensively felt; but 
it was clearly better known and more popular in Norway, and in 
the settlements established by Norwegians, than anywhere else. 
We have historical proof that there was considerable contact, 
commercial and otherwise, between the Franks of northwestern 
Germany and the Norwegians (but not the Swedes or the Danes) 
throughout the period from 600 to 800; coins of Charlemagne 
have been found in Norway, and there is other evidence show- 
ing a fairly extensive interchange of ideas as well as of goods. 
Presumably, then, the story of the Prankish hero found its way 
into Norway in the seventh century. While, at this stage of its 
development, it may conceivably have included a certain amount 
of verse, it is altogether probable that the story as it came into 
Norway in the seventh century was told largely in prose, and 
that, even after the poets had got hold of it, the legend continued 
to live among the people in the form of oral prose saga. 

The complete lack of contemporary material makes it impos- 
sible for us to speak with certainty regarding the character and 
content of the Sigurth legend as it existed in the Rhine country 
in the seventh century. It is, however, important to remember 
the often overlooked fact that any popular traditional hero be- 
came a magnet for originally unrelated stories of every kind. It 
must also be remembered that in the early Middle Ages there 
existed no such distinction between fiction and history as we now 
make; a saga, for instance, might be anything from the most 
meticulously accurate history to the wildest of fairy tales, and a 
single saga might (and sometimes did) combine both elements. 
This was equally true of the Prankish traditions, and the two 
principles just stated account for most of the puzzling phenomena 
in the growth of the Sigurth story. 

Of the origin of Sigurth himself we know absolutely nothing. 
No historical analogy can be made to fit in the slightest degree. 
If one believes in the possibility of resolving hero stories into 
nature myths, he may be explained in that fashion, but such a 
solution is not necessary. The fact remains that from very early 
days Sigurth (Sifrit) was a great traditional hero among the 
Pranks. The tales of his strength and valor, of his winning of a 
great treasure, of his wooing a more or less supernatural bride, 
and of his death at the hands of his kinsmen, probably were early 
features of this legend. 

The next step was the blending of this story with one which 



had a clear basis in history. In the year 437 the Burgundians, 
under their king, Gundicarius (so the Latin histories call him), 
were practically annihilated by the Huns. The story of this great 
battle soon became one of the foremost of Rhineland traditions; 
and though Attila was presumably not present in person, he was 
quite naturally introduced as the famous ruler of the invading 
hordes. The dramatic story of Attila's death in the year 453 was 
likewise added to the tradition, and during the sixth century the 
chain was completed by linking together the stories of Sigurth 
and those of the Burgundian slaughter. Gundicarius becomes the 
Gunther of the Nibelungenlied and the Gunnar of the Eddie 
poems; Attila becomes Etzel and Atli. A still further develop- 
ment came through the addition of another, and totally unrelated, 
set of historical traditions based on the career of Ermanarich, 
king of the Goths, who died about the year 376. Ermanarich 
figures largely in many stories unconnected with the Sigurth 
cycle, but, with the zeal of the medieval story-tellers for con- 
necting their heroes, he was introduced as the husband of SI- 
gurth's daughter, Svanhild, herself originally part of a separate 
narrative group, and as Jormunrek he plays a considerable part 
in a few of the Eddie poems. 

Such, briefly, appears to have been the development of the 
legend before it came into Norway. Here it underwent many 
changes, though the clear marks of its southern origin were 
never obliterated. The names were given Scandinavian forms, 
and in some cases were completely changed (e.g., Kriemhild 
becomes Guthrun). New figures, mostly of secondary impor- 
tance, were introduced, and a large amount of purely Northern 
local color was added. Above all, the earlier part of the story 
was linked with Northern mythology in a way which seems to 
have had no counterpart among the southern Germanic peoples. 
The Volsungs become direct descendants of Othin; the gods are 
closely concerned with Fafnir's treasure, and so on. Above all, 
the Norse story-tellers and poets changed the figure of Brynhild. 
In making her a Valkyrie, sleeping on the flame-girt rock, they 
were never conipletely successful, as she persisted in remaining, 
to a considerable extent, the entirely human daughter of Buthli 
whom Sigurth woos for Gunnar. This confusion, intensified by 
a mixing of names (cf. Sigrdrifumol, introductory note), and 
much resembling that which existed in the parallel cases of 
Svava and Sigrun in the Helgi tradition, created difficulties 


Poetic Edda 

which the Norse poets and story-tellers were never able to smooth 
out, and which have perplexed commentators ever since. 

Those who read the Sigurth poems in the Edda, or the story 
told in the Volsungasaga, expecting to find a critically accurate 
biography of the hero, will, of course, be disappointed. If, how- 
ever, they will constantly keep in mind the general manner in 
which the legend grew, its accretions ranging all the way from 
the Danube to Iceland, they will find that most of the difficulties 
are simply the natural results of conflicting traditions. Just as 
the Danish Helgi had to be "reborn" twice in order to enable 
three different men to kill him, so the story of Sigurth, as told in 
the Eddie poems, involves here and there inconsistencies explica- 
ble only when the historical development of the story is taken 
into consideration. 

Gripir was the name of Eylimi's son, the brother of 
Hjordis; he ruled over lands and was of all men the 
wisest and most forward-seeing. Sigurth once was rid- 
ing alone and came to Gripir's hall. Sigurth was easy 
to recognize; he found out in front of the hall a man 
whose name was Geitir. Then Sigurth questioned him 
and asked: 

I. "tVho is it has this dweUing here, 

Or what do men call the people's king?" 

Prose. The manuscript gives the poem no title. Gripir: this 
uncle of Sigurth's was probably a pure invention of the poet's. 
The Volsungasaga mentions him, but presumably only because 
of his appearance here. On Eylimi and Hjordis see Fra Dautha 
Sinfjotla and note. Geitir, the serving-man, is likewise apparently 
an invention of the poet's. 

I. The manuscript does not indicate the speakers anywhere 
in the poem. Some editors have made separate stanzas out of the 
two-line speeches in stanzas i, 3 and 6. 

[ 340 ] 


Geitir spake: 
"Gripir the name of the chieftain good 

Who holds the folk and the firm-ruled land." 

Sigurth spake: 

2. "Is the king all-knowing now within, 
Will the monarch come with me to speak? 
A man unknown his counsel needs, 

And Gripir fain I soon would find." 

Geitir spake : 

3. "The ruler glad of Geitir will ask 
Who seeks with Gripir speech to have." 

Sigurth spake: 
"Sigurth am I, and Sigmund's son, 
And Hjordis the name of the hero's mother." 

4. Then Geitir went and to Gripir spake: 
"A stranger comes and stands without ; 
Lofty he is to look upon. 

And, prince, thyself he fain would see." 

5. From the hall the ruler of heroes went, 

3. Sigurth: a few editions use in the verse the older form of 
this name, "Sigvorth," though the manuscript here keeps to the 
form used in this translation. The Old High German "Sigifrid" 
("Peace-Bringer through Victory") became the Norse "Sigvorth" 
("Victory-Guarder"), this, in turn, becoming "Sigurth." 

4. Bugge thinks a stanza has been lost after stanza 4, in which 
Geitir tells Gripir who Sigurth is. 


Poetic Edda 

And greeted well the warrior come: 
"Sigurth, welcome long since had been thine ; 
Now, Geitir, shalt thou Grani take." 

6. Then of many things they talked, 
When thus the men so wise had met. 

Sigurth spake: 
"To me, if thou knowest, my mother's brother, 
Say what hfe will Sigurth's be." 

Griptr spake : 
7. "Of men thou shalt be on earth the mightiest, 
And higher famed than all the heroes; 
Free of gold-giving, slow to flee, 
Noble to see, and sage in speech." 

Sigurth spake: 

8. "Monarch wise, now more I ask; 

To Sigurth say, if thou thinkest to see, 

What first will chance of my fortune fair, 
When hence I go from out thy home?" 

Gripir spake : 

9. "First shalt thou, prince, thy father avenge. 
And Eylimi, their ills requiting; 

5. Grani: Sigurth's horse. According to the Volsungasaga his 
father was Sleipnir, Othin's eight-legged horse, and Othin him- 
self gave him to Sigurth. The introductory note to the Reginsmol 
tells a different story. 

9. Thy father: on the death of Sigmund and Eylimi at the 
hands of Hunding's sons see Fra Dautha Sinfjotla and note. 



The hardy sons of Hunding thou 
Soon shalt fell, and victory find." 

Sigurth spake: 

10. "Noble king, my kinsman, say 

Thy meaning true, for our minds we speak: 
For Sigurth mighty deeds dost see. 
The highest beneath the heavens all ?" 

Gripir spake : 

11. "The fiery dragon alone thou shalt fight 
That greedy lies at Gnitaheith; 

Thou shalt be of Regin and Fafnir both 
The slayer ; truth doth Gripir tell thee." 

Sigurth spake: 

12. "Rich shall I be if battles I win 

With such as these, as now thou sayest ; 
Forward look, and further tell: 
What the life that I shall lead ?" 

Gripir spake : 

13. "Fafnir's den thou then shalt find. 
And all his treasure fair shalt take; 

II. The dragon: Fafnir, brother of the dwarf Regin, who 
turns himself into a dragon to guard Andvari's hoard ; cf. 
Reginsmol and Fafnismol. Gnitaheith: a relic of the German 
tradition; it has been identified as lying south of Paderborn. 

13. Gjuki: the Norse form of the name Gibeche ("The 
Giver"). Gjuki is the father of Gunnar, Hogni, and Guthrun, 
the family which reflects most directly the Burgundian part of 


Poetic Edda 

Gold shalt heap on Grani's back, 
And, proved in fight, to Gjuki fare." 

Sigurth spake: 

14. "To the warrior now in words so wise, 
Monarch noble, more shalt tell; 

I am Gjuki's guest, and thence I go: 
What the life that I shall lead?" 

Gripir spake : 

15. "On the rocks there sleeps the ruler's daughter, 
Fair in armor, since Helgi fell; 

Thou shalt cut with keen-edged sword, 
And cleave the byrnie with Fafnir's killer." 

the tradition (cf. Introductory Note). The statement that Sigurth 
is to go direct from the slaying of Fafnir to Gjuki's hall in- 
volves one of the confusions resulting from the dual personality 
of Brynhild. In the older (and the original South Germanic) 
story, Sigurth becomes a guest of the Gjukungs before he has 
ever heard of Brynhild, and first sees her when, having changed 
forms with Gunnar, he goes to woo her for the latter. In an- 
other version he finds Brynhild before he visits the Gjukungs, 
only to forget her as the result of the magic draught adminis- 
tered by Guthrun's mother. Both these versions are represented 
in the poems of which the author of the Gripisspo made use, and 
he tried, rather clumsily, to combine them, by having Sigurth go 
to Gjuki's house, then find the unnamed Valkyrie, and then return 
to Gjuki, the false wooing following this second visit. 

15. Basing his story on the Sigrdrifumol, the poet here tells of 
Sigurth's finding of the Valkyrie, whom he does not identify 
with Brynhild, daughter of Buthli (stanza 27), at all. His error 
in this respect is not surprising, in view of Brynhild's dual iden- 
tity (cf. Introductory Note, and Fafnismol, 44 and note). 



Sigurth spake: 

1 6. "The mail-coat is broken, the maiden speaks, 
The woman who from sleep has wakened; 
What says the maid to Sigurth then 

That happy fate to the hero brings?" 

Gripir spake : 

17. "Runes to the warrior will she tell, 

All that men may ever seek, /__ 

And teach thee to speak in all men's tongues, 
And life with health; thou'rt happy, king!" 

Sigurth spake: 

18. "Now is it ended, the knowledge is won, 
And ready I am forth thence to ride; 
Forward look and further tell: 
What the life that I shall lead ?" 

Gripir spake: 

19. "Then to Heimir's home thou comest, 
And glad shalt be the guest of the king ; 


Helgi: according to Helreith Brynhildar (stanza 8), with which 
the author of the Gripisspo was almost certainly familiar, 
the hero for whose death Brynhild was punished was named 
Hjalmgunnar. Is Helgi here identical with Hjalmgunnar, or 
did the author make a mistake? Finnur Jonsson thinks the author 
regarded Sigurth's Valkyrie as a fourth incarnation of Svava- 
Sigrun-Kara, and wrote Helgi's name in deliberately. Many 
ieditors, following Bugge, have tried to reconstruct line 2 so as 
to get rid of Helgi's name. 

19. Heimir: the Volsungasaga says that Heimir was the hus- 
band of Brynhild's sister, Bekkhild. Brynhild's family connections 


Poetic Edda 

Ended, Sigurth, 
No further aught 

is all I see, 
of Gripir ask." 

Sigurth spake: 
20. "Sorrow brings me the word thou sayest, 
For, monarch, forward further thou seest ; 
Sad the grief for Sigurth thou knowest, 
Yet nought to me, Gripir, known wilt make." 

Gripir spake : 
21. "Before me lay 
All of thy youth 
Not rightly can I 

in clearest light 
for mine eyes to see ; 
wise be called. 

Nor forward-seeing; my wisdom is fled." 

Sigurth spake: 
22. "No man, Gripir, 
Who sees the future 
Hide thou nought. 
And base the deeds 

on earth I know 

as far as thou; 
though hard it be, 
that I shall do." 


Gripir spake: 
'With baseness never 

thy life is burdened, 

involve a queer mixture of northern and southern legend. Heimir 
and Bekkhild are purely of northern invention ; neither of them 
is mentioned in any of the earlier poems, though Brynhild speaks 
of her "foster-father" in Helreith Brynhtldar. In the older Norse 
poems Brynhild is a sister of Atli (Attila), a relationship wholly 
foreign to the southern stories, and the father of this strangely 
assorted pair is Buthli, who in the Nibelungenlied is apparently 
Etzel's grandfather. Add to this her role of Valkyrie, and it is 
small wonder that the annotator himself was puzzled. 



Hero noble, hold that sure; 

Lofty as long as the world shall live, 

Battle-bringer, thy name shall be." 

Sigurth spake: 

24. "Nought could seem worse, but now must part 
The prince and Sigurth, since so it is ; 

My road I ask, — the future lies open, — 
Mighty one, speak, my mother's brother." 

Gripir spake: 

25. "Now to Sigurth all shall I say. 

For to this the warrior bends my will; 
Thou knowest well that I will not lie, — 
A day there is when thy death is doomed." 

Sigurth spake: 

26. "No scorn I know for the noble king, 
But counsel good from Gripir I seek; 
Well will I know, though evil awaits. 
What Sigurth may before him see." 

Gripir spake : 

27. "A maid in Heimir's home there dwells, 
Brynhild her name to men is known, 
Daughter of Buthli, the doughty king, 
And Heimir fosters the fearless maid." 

27. Brynhild ("Armed Warrior") : on her and her family see 
Introductory Note and note to stanza 19. 


Poetic Edda 

Sigurth spake: 

28. "What is it to me, though the maiden be 
So fair, and of Heimir the fosterling is? 
Gripir, truth to me shalt tell, 

For all of fate before me thou seest." 

Gripir spake: 

29. "Of many a joy the maiden robs thee, 
Fair to see, whom Heimir fosters; 

Sleep thou shalt find not, feuds thou shalt end 

Nor seek out men, if the maid thou seest not." 

Sigurth spake: 

30. "What may be had for Sigurth's healing? 
Say now, Gripir, if see thou canst ; 

May I buy the maid with the marriage-price, 
The daughter fair of the chieftain famed?" 

Gripir spake: 

31. "Ye twain shall all the oaths then swear 
That bind full fast; few shall ye keep; 
One night when Gjuki's guest thou hast been, 
Will Heimir's fosterling fade from thy mind." 

Sigurth spake: 

32. "What sayst thou, Gripir? give me the truth, 
Does fickleness hide in the hero's heart? 

Can it be that troth I break with the maid, 
With her I believed I loved so dear?" 



Gripir spake: 

33. "Tricked by another, prince, thou art, 

And the price of Grimhild's wiles thou must pay; 

Fain of thee for the fair-haired maid. 

Her daughter, she is, and she drags thee down." 

Sigurth spake: 

34. "Might I with Gunnar kinship make, 
And Guthrun win to be my wife, 
Well the hero wedded would be. 

If my treacherous deed would trouble me not." 

Gripir spake: 

35. "Wholly Grimhild thy heart deceives. 
She will bid thee go and Brynhild woo 
For Gunnar's wife, the lord of the Goths; 

And the prince's mother thy promise shall win." 

33. Most editions have no comma after line 3, and change 
the meaning to "Fain of thee the fair-haired one / For her 
daughter is." Grimhild: in the northern form of the story Kriem- 
hild, Gunther's sister and Siegfried's wife, becomes Grimhild, 
mother of Gunnar and Guthrun, the latter taking Kriemhild's 
place. The Volsungasaga tells how Grimhild gave Sigurth a 
magic draught which made him utterly forget Brynhild. Edzardi 
thinks two stanzas have been lost after stanza 33, their remains 
appearing in stanza 37. 

35. In the Volsungasaga Grimhild merely advises Gunnar to 
seek Brynhild for his wife, and to have Sigurth ride with him. 
Goths: the historical Gunnar (Gundicarius, cf. Introductory 
Note) was not a Goth, but a Burgundian, but the word "Goth" 
was applied in the North without much discrimination to the 
southern Germanic peoples. 


Poetic Edda 

Sigurth spake: 

36. "Evil waits me, well I see it, 

And gone is Sigurth's wisdom good, 
If I shall woo for another to win 
The maiden fair that so fondly I loved." 

Gripir spake: 

37. "Ye three shall all the oaths then take, 
Gunnar and Hogni, and, hero, thou; 

Your forms ye shall change, as forth ye fare, 
Gunnar and thou ; for Gripir lies not." 

Sigurth spake: 

38. "How meanest thou? Why make we the change 
Of shape and form as forth we fare ? 

There must follow another falsehood 
Grim in all ways; speak on, Gripir!" 

37. In the Ntbelungenlied Siegfried merely makes himself in- 
visible in order to lend Gunther his strength for the feats which 
must be performed in order to win the redoubtable bride. In the 
northern version Sigurth and Gunnar change forms, "as Grim- 
hild had taught them how to do." The VoUungasaga tells how 
Sigurth and Gunnar came to Heimir, who told them that to win 
Brynhild one must ride through the ring of fire which surrounded 
her hall (cf. the hall of Mengloth in Svipdagsmol) . Gunnar 
tries it, but his horse balks; then he mounts Grani, but Grani 
will not stir for him. So they change forms, and Sigurth rides 
Grani through the flames. Oaths: the blood-brotherhood sworn 
by Sigurth, Gunnar, and Hogni makes it impossible for the 
brothers to kill him themselves, but they finally get around the 
difficulty by inducing their half-brother, Gotthorra (cf. Hynd- 
iuljoth, 27 and note) to do it. 

[ 350 ] 


Gripir spake: 

39. "The form of Gunnar and shape thou gettest, 
But mind and voice thine own remain ; 
The hand of the fosterling noble of Heimir 
Now dost thou win, and none can prevent." 

Sigurth spake: 

40. "Most evil it seems, and men will say 
Base is Sigurth that so he did; 

Not of my will shall I cheat with wiles 
The heroes' maiden whom noblest I hold." 

Gripir spake: 

41. "Thou dwellest, leader lofty of men, 
With the maid as if thy mother she were; 
Lofty as long as the world shall live, 
Ruler of men, thy name shall remain." 

39. The last half of line 4 is obscure, and the reading is 

41. Something is clearly wrong with stanzas 41-43. In the 
manuscript the order is 41, 43, 42, which brings two of Gripir's 
answers together, followed by two of Sigurth's questions. Some 
editors have arranged the stanzas as in this translation, while 
others have interchanged 41 and 43. In any case, Sigurth in 
stanza 42 asks about the "three nights" which Gripir has never 
mentioned. I suspect that lines 3-4 of stanza 41, which are prac- 
tically identical with lines 3-4 of stanza 23, got in here by mis- 
take, replacing two lines which may have run thus: "With thy 
sword between, three nights thou sleepest / With her thou 
winnest for Gunnar's wife." The subsequent poems tell how 
Sigurth laid his sword Gram between himself and Brynhild. 

[351 J 

Poetic Edda 

Sigurth spake: 

42. "Shall Gunnar have a goodly wife, 

Famed among men, — speak forth now, Gripir! 
Although at my side three nights she slept, 
The warrior's bride ? Such ne'er has been." 

Gripir spake: 

43. "The marriage draught will be drunk for both, 
For Sigurth and Gunnar, in Gjuki's hall; 
Your forms ye change, when home ye fare. 

But the mind of each to himself remains." 

Sigurth spake: 

44. "Shall the kinship new thereafter come 
To good among us ? Tell me, Gripir ! 
To Gunnar joy shall it later give, 

Or happiness send for me myself?" 

Gripir spake: 

45. "Thine oaths remembering, silent thou art. 
And dwellest with Guthrun in wedlock good ; 
But Brynhild shall deem she is badly mated. 
And wiles she seeks, herself to avenge." 

43. The simultaneous weddings of Sigurth and Gunnar form 
a memorable feature of the German tradition as it appears in 
the Nibelungenlied, but in the Volsungasaga Sigurth marries 
Guthrun before he sets off with Gunnar to win Brynhild. 

45. According to the Volsungasaga, Sigurth remembers his 
oaths to Brynhild almost immediately after his return to Gunnar's 
house. Brynhild, on the other hand, knows nothing until the 



Sigurth spake: 

46. "What may for the bride requital be, 
The wife we won with subtle wiles? 
From me she has the oaths I made, 

And kept not long; they gladdened her little." 

Gripir spake: 

47. "To Gunnar soon his bride will say 
That ill didst thou thine oath fulfill, 
When the goodly king, the son of Gjuki, 
With all his heart the hero trusted." 

Sigurth spake: 

48. "What sayst thou, Gripir? give me the truth! 
Am I guilty so as now is said, 

famous quarrel between herself and Guthrun at the bath (an- 
other reminiscence of the German story), when she taunts 
Guthrun with Sigurth's inferiority to Gunnar, and Guthrun re- 
torts with the statement that it was Sigurth, and not Gunnar, 
who rode through the flames. 

47, Brynhild tells Gunnar that Sigurth really possessed her 
during the three nights when he slept by her in Gunnar's form, 
thus violating his oath. Here again there is a confusion of two 
traditions. If Sigurth did not meet Brynhild until after his oath 
to Gunnar (cf. note on stanza 13), Brynhild's charge is entirely 
false, as she herself admits in Helreith Brynhildar. On the other 
hand, according to the version in which Sigurth finds Brynhild 
before he meets Gjuki's sons, their union was not only com- 
pleted, but she had by him a daughter, Aslaug, whom she leaves 
in Heimir's charge before going to become Gunnar's wife. This 
is the Volsungasaga version, and thus the statement Brynhild 
makes to Gunnar, as a result of which Sigurth is slain, is quite 


Poetic Edda 

Or lies does the far-famed queen put forth 
Of me and herself? Yet further speak." 

Gripir spake: 

49. "In wrath and grief full little good 
The noble bride shall work thee now; 
No shame thou gavest the goodly one, 
Though the monarch's wife with wiles didst 


Sigurth spake: 

50. "Shall Gunnar the wise to the woman's words, 
And Gotthorm and Hogni, then give heed? 
Shall Gjuki's sons, now tell me, Gripir, 
Redden their blades with their kinsman's blood?" 

Gripir spake: 

51. "Heavy it lies on Guthrun's heart. 
When her brothers all shall bring thee death ; 
Never again shall she happiness know, 

The woman so fair; 'tis Grimhild's work." 

Sigurth spake: 

52. "Now fare thee well! our fates we shun not; 
And well has Gripir answered my wish ; 
More of joy to me wouldst tell 

Of mv life to come if so thou couldst." 

50. Gotthorm: Gunnar's half-brother, and slayer of Sigurth. 
52. The manuscript has stanzas 52 and 53 in inverse order. 



Gripir spake: 
53. "Ever remember, ruler of men, 

That fortune lies in the hero's life; 

A nobler man shall never live 

Beneath the sun than Sigurth shall seem." 

1355 J 


The Ballad of Regin 

Introductory Note 

The Reginsmol immediately follows the Gripisspo in the 
Codex Regius, and in addition stanzas i, 2, 6, and 18 are quoted 
in the Volsungasaga, and stanzas 13-26 in the Nornageststhattr. 
In no instance is the title of the poem stated, and in Regius there 
stands before the introductory prose, very faintly written, what 
appears to be "Of Sigurth." As a result, various titles have been 
affixed to it, the two most often used being "the Ballad of 
Regin" and "the First Lay of Sigurth Fafnisbane." 

As a matter of fact, it is by no means clear that the compiler 
of the Eddie collection regarded this or either of the two fol- 
lowing poems, the Fafnismol and the Sigrdrifumol, as separate 
and distinct poems at all. There are no specific titles given, and 
the prose notes link the three poems in a fairly consecutive 
whole. Furthermore, the prose passage introducing the Reginsmol 
connects directly with Fra Dautha Sinfjotla, and only the inser- 
tion of the Gripisspo at this point, which may well have been 
done by some stupid copyist, breaks the continuity of the story. 

For convenience I have here followed the usual plan of 
dividing this material into distinct parts, or poems, but I greatly 
doubt if this division is logically sound. The compiler seems, 
rather, to have undertaken to set down the story of Sigurth in 
consecutive form, making use of all the verse with which he was 
familiar, and which, by any stretch of the imagination, could be 
made to fit, filling up the gaps with prose narrative notes based 
on the living oral tradition. 

This view is supported by the fact that not one of the three 
poems in question, and least of all the Reginsmol, can possibly 
be regarded as a unit. For one thing, each of them includes both 
types of stanza commonly used in the Eddie poems, and this, 
notwithstanding the efforts of Grundtvig and MuUenhoflF to 
prove the contrary, is almost if not quite conclusive proof that 
each poem consists of material taken from more than one source. 
Furthermore, there is nowhere continuity within the verse itself 
for more than a very few stanzas. An analysis of the Reginsmol 
shows that stanzas 1-4, 6-10, and 12, all in Ljothahattr stanza 
form, seem to belong together as fragments of a poem dealing with 



Loki's (not Andvari's) curse on the gold taken by the gods from 
Andvari and paid to Hrelthmar, together with Hreithmar's death 
at the hands of his son, Fafnir, as the first result of this curse. 
Stanza 5, in Fornyrthislag, is a curse on the gold, here ascribed 
to Andvari, but the only proper name in the stanza, Gust, is 
quite unidentifiable, and the stanza may originally have had to 
do with a totally different story. Stanza 11, likewise in Fornyrthis- 
lag, is merely a father's demand that his daughter rear a family 
to avenge his death; there is nothing in it to link it necessarily 
with the dying Hreithmar. Stanzas 13-18, all in Fornyrthislag, 
give Regin's welcome to Sigurth (stanzas 13-14), Sigurth's an- 
nouncement that he will avenge his father's death on the sons of 
Hunding before he seeks any treasure (stanza 15), and a dia- 
logue between a certain Hnikar, who is really Othin, and Regin, 
as the latter and Sigurth are on the point of being shipwrecked. 
This section (stanzas 13-18) bears a striking resemblance to the 
Helgi lays, and may well have come originally from that cycle. 
Next follows a passage in Ljothahattr form (stanzas 19-22 and 
24-25) in which Hnikar-Othin gives some general advice as to 
lucky omens and good conduct in battle ; the entire passage might 
equally well stand in the Hovamol, and I suspect that it origi- 
nally came from just such a collection of wise saws. Inserted in 
this passage is stanza 23, in Fornyrthislag, likewise on the con- 
duct of battle, with a bit of tactical advice included. The "poem" 
ends with a single stanza, in Fornyrthislag, simply stating that 
the bloody fight is over and that Sigurth fought well — a state- 
ment equally applicable to any part of the hero's career. 

Finnur Jonsson has divided the Reginsmol into two poems, or 
rather into two sets of fragments, but this, as the foregoing analy- 
sis has indicated, does not appear to go nearly far enough. It 
accords much better with the facts to assume that the compiler 
of the collection represented by the Codex Regius, having set out 
to tell the story of Sigurth, took his verse fragments pretty much 
wherever he happened to find them. In this connection, it should 
be remembered that in the fluid state of oral tradition poems, 
fragments, and stanzas passed readily and frequently from one 
story to another. Tradition, never critical, doubtless connected 
with the Sigurth story much verse that never originated there. 

If the entire passage beginning with the prose Fra Dautha 
Sinfjotla, and, except for the Gripisspo, including the Reginsmol, 
Fafnismol, and Sigrdrifumol, be regarded as a highly uncritical 


Poetic Edda 

piece of compilation, rendered consecutive by the compiler's 
prose narrative, its difficulties are largely smoothed away; any 
other way of looking at it results in utterly inconclusive attempts 
to reconstruct poems some of which quite possibly never existed. 

The twenty-six stanzas and accompanying prose notes in- 
cluded under the heading of Reginsmol belong almost wholly to 
the northern part of the Sigurth legend; the mythological fea- 
tures have no counterpart in the southern stories, and only here 
and there is there any betrayal of the tradition's Prankish home. 
The story of Andvari, Loki, and Hreithmar is purely Norse, as 
is the concluding section containing Othin's counsels. If we 
assume that the passage dealing with the victory over Hunding's 
sons belongs to the Helgi cycle (cf. introductory notes to Helga- 
kvitha Hjorvarthssonar and Helgakvitha Hundingsbana I), there 
is very little left to reflect the Sigurth tradition proper. 

Regarding the general development of the story of Sigurth 
in the North, see the introductory note to the Gripisspo. 

Sigurth went to Hjalprek's stud and chose for himself 
a horse, who thereafter was called Grani. At that time 
Regin, the son of Hreithmar, was come to Hjalprek's 
home; he was more ingenious than all other men, and a 
dwarf in stature ; he was wise, fierce and skilled in magic. 
Regin undertook Sigurth's bringing up and teaching, and 
loved him much. He told Sigurth of his forefathers, 
and also of this: that once Othin and Honir and Loki had 
come to Andvari's waterfall, and in the fall were many 
fish. Andvari was a dwarf, who had dwelt long in the 
waterfall in the shape of a pike, and there he got his food. 
"Otr was the name of a brother of ours," said Regin, 
"who often went into the fall in the shape of an otter; he 
had caught a salmon, and sat on the high bank eating it 
with his eyes shut. Loki threw a stone at him and killed 
him ; the gods thought they had had great good luck, and 

[358 J 


stripped the skin off the otter. That same evening they 
sought a night's lodging at Hreithmar's house, and showed 
their booty. Then we seized them, and told them, as 
ransom for their lives, to fill the otter skin with gold, and 
completely cover it outside as well with red gold. Then 
they sent Loki to get the gold; he went to Ron and got 
her net, and went then to Andvari's fall and cast the net 
in front of the pike, and the pike leaped into the net." 
Then Loki said: 

I. "What is the fish that runs in the flood, 
And itself from ill cannot save? 
If thy head thou wouldst from hell redeem, 
Find me the water's flame." 

Prose. Hjalprek: father of Alf, Sigurth's step-father; cf. Fra 
Dautha Sinfjotla, and note. Grani: cf. Gripisspo, 5 and note. 
Regin ("Counsel-Giver") : undoubtedly he goes back to the smith 
of the German story; in the Thithrekssaga version he is called 
Mimir, while Regin is there the name of the dragon (here 
Regin's brother, Fafnir). The Voluspo (stanza 12) names a 
Regin among the dwarfs, and the name may have assisted in 
making Regin a dwarf here. Hreithmar: nothing is known of him 
outside of this story. Othin, Honir and Loki: these same three 
gods appear in company in Voluspo, 17-18. Andvari's fall: 
according to Snorri, who tells this entire story in the Skaldskap- 
armal, Andvari's fall was in the world of the dark elves, while 
the one where Loki killed the otter was not; here, however, the 
two are considered identical. With his eyes shut: according to 
Snorri, Otr ate with his eyes shut because be was so greedy that 
he could not bear to see the food before him diminishing. Ron: 
wife of the sea-god ^gir, who draws down drowning men with 
her net; cf. Helgakvitha Hjorvarthssonar, 18 and note. Snorri 
says that Loki caught the pike with his hands. 

I. Snorri quotes this stanza. Water's flame: gold, so called 
because ^gir, the sea-god, was wont to light his hall with gold. 


Poetic Edda 

Andvari spake: 

2. "Andvari am I, and Oin my father, 

In many a fall have I fared; 
An evil Norn in olden days 
Doomed me in waters to dwell." 

Loki spake: 

3. "Andvari, say, if thou seekest still 

To live in the land of men, 
What payment is set for the sons of men 
Who war with lying words?" 

Andvari spake: 

4. "A mighty payment the men must make 

Who in Vathgelmir's waters wade; 
On a long road lead the lying words 
That one to another utters." 

Loki saw all the gold that Andvari had. But when 

2. Snorri quotes this stanza. The name of the speaker is not 
given in the manuscripts. Oin: nothing further is known of 
Andvari's father. Norn: cf. Voluspo, 20. 

3. Stanzas 3-4 may well be fragments of some other poem. 
Certainly Loki's question does not fit the situation, and the 
passage looks like an extract from some such poem as Vafthruth- 
nismol. In Regius the phrase "Loki spake" stands in the middle 
of line I. 

4. The manuscript does not name the speaker. Vathgelmir 
("Raging to Wade") : a river not elsewhere mentioned, but cf. 
Voluspo, 39. 

Prose. Snorri says Andvari's ring had the power to create 
new gold. In this it resembled Baldr's ring, Draupnir; cf. 
Skirnismol, 21 and note. 



he had brought forth all the gold, he held back one ring, 
and Loki took this from him. The dwarf went into his 
rocky hole and said : 

5. "Now shall the gold that Gust once had 
Bring their death to brothers twain, 
And evil be for heroes eight ; 

Joy of my wealth shall no man win." 

The gods gave Hreithmar the gold, and filled up the 
otter-skin, and stood it on its feet. Then the gods had to 
heap up gold and hide it. And when that was done, 
Hreithmar came forward and saw a single whisker, and 
bade them cover it. Then Othin brought out the ring 
Andvaranaut and covered the hair. Then Loki said : 

6. "The gold is given, and great the price 

Thou hast my head to save; 

5. This stanza apparently comes from a different source 
from stanzas 1-4 (or 1-2 if 3-4 are interpolated) and 6-10; cf. 
Introductory Note. In the Volsungasaga Andvari lays his curse 
particularly on the ring. Gust: possibly a name for Andvari 
himself, or for an earlier possessor of the treasure. Brothers 
tivain: Fafnir and Regin. Heroes eight: the word "eight" may 
easily have been substituted for something like "all" to make 
the stanza fit the case; the "eight" in question are presumably 
Sigurth, Gotthorm, Gunnar, Hogni, Atli, Erp, Sorli and Hamther, 
all of whom are slain in the course of the story. But the stanza 
may originally not have referred to Andvari's treasure at all. 

Prose. Andvaranaut: "Andvari's Gem." 

6. Snorri quotes this stanza, introducing it, as here, with 
"Then Loki said" in the prose. Regius omits this phrase, but 
inserts "said Loki" in line i. 

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Poetic Edda 

But fortune thy sons shall find not there, 
The bane of ye both it is." 

Hreithmar spake: 

7. "Gifts ye gave, but ye gave not kindly, 

Gave not with hearts that were whole ; 
Your lives ere this should ye all have lost, 
If sooner this fate I had seen." 

Loki spake: 

8. "Worse is this that methinks I see, 

For a maid shall kinsmen clash; 
Heroes unborn thereby shall be, 
I deem, to hatred doomed." 

Hreithmar spake: 

9. "The gold so red shall I rule, methinks, 

So long as I shall live; 
Nought of fear for thy threats I feel. 
So get ye hence to your homes." 

Fafnir and Regin asked Hreithmar for a share of the 
wealth that was paid for the slaying of their brother, Otr. 
This he refused, and Fafnir thrust his sword through the 

8. The word translated "maid" in line 2 is obscure, and 
"gold" may be meant. Apparently, however, the reference is 
to the fight between Sigurth and the sons of Gjuki over Brynhild. 
The manuscript does not name the speaker, and many editions 
assign this stanza to Hreithmar. 

9. The manuscript includes "said Hreithmar" (abbreviated) 
in the middle of line 1, and some editors have followed this. 



body of his father, Hreithmar, while he was sleeping. 
Hreithmar called to his daughters: 

10. "Lyngheith and Lofnheith, fled is my life, 

And mighty now is my need!" 

Lyngheith spake: 
"Though a sister loses her father, seldom 
Revenge on her brother she brings." 

Hreithmar spake: 

11. "A daughter, woman with wolf's heart, bear. 
If thou hast no son with the hero brave; 

If one weds the maid, for the need is mighty. 
Their son for thy hurt may vengeance seek." 

Then Hreithmar died, and Fafnir took all the gold. 
Thereupon Regin asked to have his inheritance from his 
father, but Fafnir refused this. Then Regin asked counsel 

10. Hreithmar's daughters do not appear elsewhere. It has 
been suggested that originally stanza lo was followed by one 
in which Lofnheith lamented her inability to avenge her father, 
as she was married and had no son. 

11. Apparently an interpolation (cf. Introductory Note). 
Vigfusson tries to reconstruct lines 2 and 4 to fit the Ljothahattr 
rhythm, but without much success. Hreithmar urges his daughter, 
as she has no sons, to bear a daughter who, in turn, will have 
a son to avenge his great-grandfather. Grundtvig worked out 
an ingenious theory to fit this stanza, making Sigurth's grand- 
father, Eylimi, the husband of Lyngheith's daughter, but there 
is absolutely no evidence to support this. The stanza may have 
nothing to do with Hreithmar. 


Poetic Edda 

of Lyngheith, his sister, how he should win his inherit- 
ance. She said: 

12. "In friendly wise the wealth shalt thou ask 

Of thy brother, and better will ; 
Not seemly is it to seek with the sword 
Fafnir's treasure to take." 

All these happenings did Regin tell to Sigurth. 
One day, when he came to Regin's house, he was 
gladly welcomed. Regin said : 

13. "Hither the son of Sigmund is come, 
The hero eager, here to our hall; 

His courage is more than an ancient man's, 
And battle I hope from the hardy wolf. 

14. "Here shall I foster the fearless prince. 
Now Yngvi's heir to us is come; 

The noblest hero beneath the sun. 
The threads of his fate all lands enfold." 

13. This and the following stanza may be out of place here, 
really belonging, together with their introductory prose sentence, 
in the opening prose passage, following the first sentence describ- 
ing Regin. Certainly they seem to relate to Regin's first meeting 
with Sigurth. Stanzas 13-26, interspersed with prose, are quoted 
in the Nornageststhattr. Stanzas 13-18 may be the remnants of 
a lost poem belonging to the Helgi cycle (cf. Introductory Note). 
Hardy <wolf: warrior, i. e., Sigurth. 

14. Yngvi's heir: Yngvi was one of the sons of the Danish 
king Halfdan the Old, and traditionally an ancestor of Helgi 
(cf. Helgakvitha Hundingsbana I, 57 and note). Calling Sigurth 



Sigurth was there continually with Regin, who said 
to Sigurth that Fafnir lay at Gnitaheith, and was in 
the shape of a dragon. He had a fear-helm, of which 
all living creatures were terrified. Regin made Sigurth 
the sword which was called Gram; it was so sharp that 
when he thrust it down into the Rhine, and let a strand 
of wool drift against it with the stream, it cleft the strand 
asunder as if it were water. With this sword Sigurth 
cleft asunder Regin's anvil. After that Regin egged 
Sigurth on to slay Fafnir, but he said: 

15. "Loud will the sons of Hunding laugh, 
Who low did Eylimi lay in death. 
If the hero sooner seeks the red 
Rings to find than his father's vengeance." 

King Hjalprek gave Sigurth a fleet for the avenging 

a descendant of Yngvi is, of course, absurd, and the use of this 
phrase is one of the many reasons for believing that stanzas 
13-18 belonged originally to the Helgi cycle. The threads, etc.: 
another link with Helgi; cf. Helgakvitha Hundingsbana I, 3-4. 
As Helgi was likewise regarded as a son of Sigmund, stanzas 
13-14 would fit him just as well as Sigurth. 

Prose. Gnitaheith: cf. Gripisspo, 11 and note. Fear-helm: the 
word "sgis-hjalmr," which occurs both here and in Fafnismol, 
suggests an extraordinarily interesting, and still disputed, ques- 
tion of etymology. Gram: according to the Volsungasaga Regin 
forged this sword from the fragments of the sword given by 
Othin to Sigmund (cf. Fra Dautha Sinfjotla and note). 

15. Regarding the sons of Hunding and Eylimi, father of 
Sigurth's mother, all of whom belong to the Helgi tradition, cf. 
Fra Dautha Sinfjotla and note. 

Prose. The fleet, and the subsequent storm, are also reminis- 
[ 365 ] 

Poetic Edda 

of his father. They ran into a great storm, and were o£E 
a certain headland. A man stood on the mountain, and 
said : 

1 6. "Who yonder rides 
O'er towering waves 
The sail-horses all 
Nor can the sea-steeds 

on Rsevil's steeds, 
and waters wild ? 
with sweat are dripping, 
the gale withstand." 

Re gin answered: 
17. "On the sea-trees here 
The storm wind drives us 
The waves crash down 
And the roller-steeds sink ; 

are Sigurth and I, 
on to our death; 

on the forward deck, 
who seeks our names ?" 

The Man spake: 
"Hnikar I was when Volsung once 
Gladdened the ravens and battle gave; 
Call me the Man from the Mountain now, 
Feng or Fjolnir; with you will I fare." 

cent of the Helgi cycle ; of. Helgakvitha Hundingsbana I, 29-31, 
and //, prose after stanza 16. A man: Othin. 

16. Ravil's steeds (Raevil was a sea-king, possibly the 
grandson of Ragnar Lothbrok mentioned in the Hervararsaga), 
sail-horses and sea-steeds all mean "ships." 

17. Sea-trees and roller-steeds (the latter because ships were 
pulled up on shore by means of rollers) both mean "ships." 

18. The Volsungasaga quotes this stanza. Hnikar and 
Fjolnir: Othin gives himself both these names in Grimnismol, 
47; Feng ("The Seizer") does not appear elsewhere. According 
to the Volsungasaga, no one knew Othin's name when he came 
to Volsung's house and left the sword there for Sigmund. 



They sailed to the land, and the man went on board 
the ship, and the storm subsided. Sigurth spake: 

19. "Hnikar, say, for thou seest the fate 

That to gods and men is given; 
What sign is fairest for him who fights, 
And best for the swinging of swords?" 

Hnikar spake : 

20. "Many the signs, if men but knew, 

That are good for the swinging of swords; 
It is well, methinks, if the warrior meets 
A raven black on his road. 

21. "Another it is if out thou art come, 

And art ready forth to fare, 
To behold on the path before thy house 
Two fighters greedy of fame. 

22. "Third it is well if a howling wolf 

Thou hearest under the ash ; 
And fortune comes if thy foe thou seest 
Ere thee the hero beholds. 

23. "A man shall fight not when he must face 
The moon's bright sister setting late ; 

19. This and the following stanzas are strongly suggestive 
of the Hovamol, and probably came originally from some such 

23. This stanza is clearly an interpolation, drawn in by the 


Poetic Edda 

Win he shall who well can see, 

And wedge-like forms his men for the fray. 

24. "Foul is the sign if thy foot shall stumble 

As thou goest forth to fight ; 
Goddesses baneful at both thy sides 
Will that wounds thou shalt get. 

25. "Combed and washed shall the wise man go, 

And a meal at morn shall take; 
For unknown it is where at eve he may be ; 
It is ill thy luck to lose." 

Sigurth had a great battle with Lyngvi, the son of 

common-sense advice, as distinct from omens, given in the last 
lines of stanza 22. Moon's sister: the sun; cf. Vafthruthnismol, 
23 and note. Wedge-like: the wedge formation (prescribed anew 
in 1920 for the United States Army under certain circumstances) 
was said to have been invented by Othin himself, and taught by 
him only to the most favored warriors. 

24. Goddesses: Norse mythology included an almost limitless 
number of minor deities, the female ones, both kind and unkind, 
being generally classed among the lesser Norns. 

25. This stanza almost certainly had nothing originally to 
do with the others in this passage ; it may have been taken from 
a longer version of the Hovamol itself. 

Prose. Lyngvi: the son of Hunding who killed Sigmund in 
jealousy of his marriage with Hjordis; cf. Fra Dautha Sinfjotla 
and note. The Volsungasaga names one brother who was with 
Lyngvi in the battle, Hjorvarth, and Sigurth kills him as readily 
as if he had not already been killed long before by Helgi. But, 
as has been seen, it was nothing for a man to be killed in two or 
three different ways. 



Hunding, and his brothers ; there Lyngvi fell, and his two 
brothers with him. After the battle Regin said: 

26. "Now the bloody eagle with biting sword 
Is carved on the back of Sigmund's killer; 
Few were more fierce in fight than his son, 
Who reddened the earth and gladdened the 

Sigurth went home to Hjalprek's house; thereupon 
Regin egged him on to fight with Fafnir. 

26. Bloody eagle, etc.: the Nornageststhattr describes the man- 
ner in which the captured Lyngvi was put to death. "Regin 
advised that they should carve the bloody eagle on his back. So 
Regin took his sword and cleft Lyngvi's back so that he severed 
his back from his ribs, and then drew out his lungs. So died 
Lyngvi with great courage." 

Prose. In Regius there is no break of any kind between this 
prose passage and the prose introduction to the Fafnismol (cf. 
Introductory Note). 



The Ballad of Fafnir 

Introductory Note 
The so-called Fafnismol, contained in full in the Codex 
Regius, where it immediately follows the Reginsmol without any 
indication of a break, is quoted by Snorri in the Gylfaginning 
(stanza 13) and the Skaldskaparmal (stanzas 32 and 33), and 
stanzas 6, 3, and 4 appear in the Sverrissaga. Although the 
Volsungasaga does not actually quote any of the stanzas, it gives 
a very close prose parallel to the whole poem in chapters 18 
and 19. 

The general character of the Fafnismol, and its probable rela- 
tion to the Reginsmol and the Sigrdrifumol, have been discussed 
in the introductory note to the Reginsmol. While it is far more 
nearly a unit than the Reginsmol, it shows many of the same 
characteristics. It has the same mixture of stanza forms, although 
in this case only nine stanzas (32-33, 35-36 and 40-44) vary 
from the normal Ljothahattr measure. It shows, though to a much 
less marked extent, the same tendency to introduce passages from 
extraneous sources, such as the question-and-answer passage in 
stanzas 11-15. At the same time, in this instance it is quite clear 
that one distinct poem, including probably stanzas i-io, 16-23, 
25-31, and 34-39, underlay the compilation which we here have. 
This may, perhaps, have been a long poem (not, however, the 
"Long" Sigurth Lay ; see introductory note to Brot af Sigtirth- 
arkvithu) dealing with the Regin-Fafnir-Sigurth-Brynhild story, 
and including, besides most of the Fafnismol, stanzas 1-4 and 
6-11 of the Reginsmol and part of the so-called Sigrdrifumol, 
together with much that has been lost. The original poem may, 
on the other hand, have confined itself to the Fafnir episode. 
In any case, and while the extant Fafnismol can be spoken 
of as a distinct poem far more justly than the Reginsmol, there 
is still no indication that the compiler regarded it as a poem by 
itself. His prose notes run on without a break, and the verses 
simply cover a dramatic episode in Sigurth's early life. The 
fact that the work of compilation has been done more intel- 
ligently than in the case of the Reginsmol seems to have resulted 
chiefly from the compiler's having been familiar with longer 
consecutive verse passages dealing with the Fafnir episode. 

[ 370 ] 


The Reginsmol is little more than a clumsy mosaic, but in the 
Fafnismol it is possible to distinguish between the main substance 
of the poem and the interpolations. 

Here, as in the Reginsmol, there is very little that bespeaks 
the German origin of the Sigurth story. Sigurth's winning of 
the treasure is in itself undoubtedly a part of the earlier southern 
legend, but the manner in which he does it is thoroughly Norse. 
Moreover, the concluding section, which points toward the finding 
of the sleeping Brynhild, relates entirely to the northern Valky- 
rie, the warrior-maiden punished by Othin, and not at all to 
the southern Brynhild the daughter of Buthli. The Fafnismol is, 
however, sharply distinguished from the Reginsmol by showing 
no clear traces of the Helgi tradition, although a part of the 
bird song (stanzas 40-44, in Fornyrthislag form, as distinct from 
the body of the poem) sounds suspiciously like the bird passage 
in the beginning of the Helgakvitha Hjorvarthssonar. Regarding 
the general relations of the various sets of traditions in shaping 
the story of Sigurth, see the introductory note to Gripisspo. 

The Fafnismol, together with a part of the Sigrdrifumol, has 
indirectly become the best known of all the Eddie poems, for 
the reason that Wagner used it, with remarkably little change 
of outline, as tlie basis for his "Siegfried." 

Sigurth and Regin went up to the Gnitaheith, and 
found there the track that Fafnir made when he crawled 
to water. Then Sigurth made a great trench across the 
path, and took his place therein. When Fafnir crawled 
from his gold, he blew out venom, and it ran down from 
above on Sigurth's head. But when Fafnir crawled over 
the trench, then Sigurth thrust his sword into his body 

Prose. The prose follows the concluding prose passage of the 
Reginsmol without any interruption; the heading "Of Fafnir's 
Death" is written in the manuscript very faintly just before 
stanza i. Gnitaheith: cf. Gripisspo, 11 and note. Fafnir: Regin's 
brother: cf. Reginsmol, prose after stanza 14. Venom: in the Vol' 


Poetic Edda 

to the heart. Fafnir writhed and struck out with his 
head and tail. Sigurth leaped from the trench, and each 
looked at the other. Fafnir said: 

1. "Youth, oh, youth! of whom then, youth, art 

thou bom ? 
Say whose son thou art. 
Who in Fafnir's blood thy bright blade red- 
And struck thy sword to my heart." 

Sigurth concealed his name because it was believed in 
olden times that the word of a dying man might have 
great power if he cursed his foe by his name. He said: 

2. "The Noble Hart my name, and I go 

A motherless man abroad; 
Father I had not, as others have, 
And lonely ever I live." 

sungasaga it was the blood, and not the venom, that poured down 
on Sigurth's head. Sigurth was much worried about this danger, 
and before he dug the trench asked Regin what would happen 
if the dragon's blood overcame him. Regin thereupon taunted 
him with cowardice (Sigurth refers to this taunt in stanza 30, 
but the stanza embodying it has disappeared). After Sigurth 
had dug his trench, an old man (Othin, of course) appeared 
and advised him to dig other trenches to carry oflE the blood, 
which he did, thereby escaping harm. 

I. The first line in the original, as here, is unusually long 
but dramatically very effective on that account. 

3. The names of the speakers do not appear in the manu- 
script, though they seem originally to have been indicated in the 



Fafnir spake: 

3. "If father thou hadst not, as others have, 

By what wonder wast thou born ? 
(Though thy name on the day of my death thou 
Thou knowest now thou dost He.)" 

Sigurth spake: 

4. "My race, methinks, is unknown to thee, 

And so am I myself; 
Sigurth my name, and Sigmund's son, 
Who smote thee thus with the sword." 

Fafnir spake: 

5. "Who drove thee on? why wert thou driven 

My life to make me lose? 
A father brave had the bright-eyed youth, 
For bold in boyhood thou art." 

Sigurth spake: 

6. "My heart did drive me, my hand fulfilled. 

And my shining sword so sharp ; 
Few are keen when old age comes, 
Who timid in boyhood be." 

margin for stanzas 3-30. The last two lines of stanza 3 are 
missing in the manuscript, with no gap indicated, but the Vol- 
sungasaga prose paraphrase indicates that something was omitted, 
and the lines here given are conjecturally reconstructed from this 

4. The manuscript marks line 3 as the beginning of a stanza. 

5. Line 4, utterly obscure in the manuscript, is guesswork 

[373 J 

Poetic Edda 

Fafnir spake: 

7. "If thou mightest grow thy friends among, 

One might see thee fiercely fight ; 
But bound thou art, and in battle taken, 
And to fear are prisoners prone." 

Sigurth spake: 

8. "Thou blamest me, Fafnir, that I see from afar 

The wealth that my father's was ; 
Not bound am I, though in battle taken, 
Thou hast found that free I live." 

Fafnir spake: 

9. "In all I say dost thou hatred see, 

Yet truth alone do I tell; 
The sounding gold, the glow-red wealth. 
And the rings thy bane shall be." 

Sigurth spake: 

10. "Some one the hoard shall ever hold, 

Till the destined day shall come ; 
For a time there is when every man 
Shall journey hence to hell." 

Fafnir spake : 

11. "The fate of the Norns before the headland 

7. Fafnir here refers to the fact that Hjordis, mother of the 
still unborn Sigurth, was captured by Alf after Sigmund's death; 
cf. Fra Dautha Sinfjotla, note. 

II. Stanzas 11-15 are probably interpolated, and come from 



Thou findest, and doom of a fool; 
In the water shalt drown if thou row 'gainst the 
All danger is near to death." 

Sigurth spake: 

12. "Tell me then, Fafnir, for wise thou art famed, 

And much thou knowest now: 
Who are the Norns who are helpful in need, 
And the babe from the mother bring?" 

Fafnir spake: 

13. "Of manj^ births the Norns must be, 

Nor one in race they were ; 
Some to gods, others to elves are kin, 
And Dvalin's daughters some." 

Sigurth spake: 

14. "Tell me then, Fafnir, for wise thou art famed, 

And much thou knowest now: 

a poem similar to Vafthruthnismol. The headland: Fafnir is 
apparently quoting proverbs; this one seems to mean that disaster 
("the fate of the Norns") awaits when one rounds the first 
headland (i. e., at the beginning of life's voyage, in youth). The 
third line is a commentary on obstinate rashness. The Vol- 
sungasaga paraphrases stanzas 11-15 throughout. 

12. Norns: cf. stanza 13 and note. Sigurth has no possible 
interest in knowing what Norns are helpful in childbirth, but 
interpolations were seldom logical. 

13. Snorri quotes this stanza. There were minor Norns, or 
fates, in addition to the three great Norns, regarding whom cf. 
Voluspo, 20. Dvalin: chief of the dwarfs; cf. Voluspo, 14. 


Poetic Edda 

How call they the isle where all the gods 
And Surt shall sword-sweat mingle?" 

Fafnir spake: 

15. "Oskopnir is it, where all the gods 

Shall seek the play of swords; 
Bilrost breaks when they cross the bridge, 
And the steeds shall swim in the flood. 

16. "The fear-helm I wore to af right mankind, 

While guarding my gold I lay; 
Mightier seemed I than any man. 
For a fiercer never I found." 

Sigurth spake: 

17. "The fear-helm surely no man shields 

When he faces a valiant foe ; 
Oft one finds, when the foe he meets. 
That he is not the bravest of all." 

Fafnir spake : 

18. "Venom I breathed when bright I lay 

By the hoard my father had ; 

14. Surt: ruler of the fire world; the reference is to the last 
great battle. Sivord-siveat : blood. 

15. Oskopnir ("Not-Made") : apparently another name for 
Vigrith, which is named in Vafthruthnismol, i8, as the final 
battle-ground. Bilrost (or Bifrost) : the rainbow bridge which 
breaks beneath Surt's followers; cf. Grimnismol, 29 and note. 

16. With this stanza Fafnir returns to the situation. Fear- 
helm: regarding the "aegis-hjalmr" cf. Reginsmol, prose after 
stanza 14 and note. 



(There was none so mighty as dared to meet me, 
And weapons nor wiles I feared.)" 

Sigurth spake: 

19. "Glittering worm, thy hissing was great, 

And hard didst show thy heart ; 
But hatred more have the sons of men 
For him who owns the helm." 

Fafnir spake: 

20. "I counsel thee, Sigurth, heed my speech. 

And ride thou homeward hence ; 
The sounding gold, the glow-red wealth, 
And the rings thy bane shall be." 

Sigurth spake: 

21. "Thy counsel is given, but go I shall 

To the gold in the heather hidden ; 
And, Fafnir, thou with death dost fight, 
Lying where Hel shall have thee." 

Fafnir spake: 

22. "Regin betrayed me, and thee will betray. 

Us both to death will he bring ; 

18. Lines 3-4 do not appear in the manuscript, and no gap 
is indicated; they are here conjecturally paraphrased from the 
prose passage in the Volsungasaga. 

20. It has been suggested that this stanza is spurious, and 
that stanza 21 ought to follow stanza 22. Lines 3-4, abbreviated 
in the manuscript, are identical with lines 3-4 of stanza 9. The 
Volsungasaga paraphrase in place of these two lines makes 

Poetic Edda 

His life, methinks, must Fafnir lose, 
For the mightier man wast thou." 

Regin had gone to a distance while Sigurth fought 
Fafnir, and came back while Sigurth was wiping the 
blood from his sword. Regin said : 

23. "Hail to thee, Sigurth! Thou victory hast, 

And Fafnir in fight hast slain; 
Of all the men who tread the earth. 
Most fearless art thou, methinks." 

Sigurth spake: 

24. "Unknown it is, when all are together, 

(The sons of the glorious gods,) 
Who bravest born shall seem ; 
Some are valiant who redden no sword 
In the blood of a foeman's breast." 

Regin spake : 

25. "Glad art thou, Sigurth, of battle gained, 

As Gram with grass thou cleansest; 
My brother fierce in fight hast slain. 
And somewhat I did myself." 

Fafnir say: "For it often happens that he who gets a deadly 
wound yet avenges himself." It is quite likely that two stanzas 
have been lost. 

22. The Volsungasaga places its paraphrase of this stanza 
between those of stanzas 15 and 16. 

24. Line 2 is probably spurious, but it is a phrase typical of 
such poems as Grimnismol or Vafthruthnismol. 

25. Gram: Sigurth's sword; cf. Reginsmol, prose after 14. 

I 378 1 


Sigurth spake: 

26. "Afar didst thou go while Fafnir reddened 

With his blood my blade so keen; 
With the might of the dragon my strength I 
While thou in the heather didst hide." 

Regin spake : 

27. "Longer wouldst thou in the heather have let 

Yon hoary giant hide, 
Had the weapon availed not that once I forged. 
The keen-edged blade thou didst bear." 

Sigurth spake: 
28. "Better is heart than a mighty blade 
For him who shall fiercely fight; 
The brave man well shall fight and win, 
Though dull his blade may be. 

29. "Brave men better than cowards be, 

When the clash of battle comes; 
And better the glad than the gloomy man 
Shall face what before him lies. 

30. "Thy rede it was that I should ride 

26. In the manuscript stanzas 26-29 stand after stanza 31, 
which fails to make clear sense; they are here rearranged in 
accordance with the Volsungasaga paraphrase. 

28-29. Almost certainly interpolated from some such poem as 
the Hovamol. Even the faithful Volsungasaga fails to para- 
phrase stanza 29. 


Poetic Edda 

Hither o'er mountains high ; 
The glittering worm would have wealth and life 
If thou hadst not mocked at my might." 

Then Regin went up to Fafnir and cut out his heart 
with his sword, that was named Rithil, and then he drank 
blood from the wounds. Regin said : 

31. "Sit now, Sigurth, for sleep will I, 

Hold Fafnir's heart to the fire; 
For all his heart shall eaten be, 
Since deep of blood I have drunk." 

Sigurth took Fafnir's heart and cooked it on a spit. 
When he thought that it was fully cooked, and the blood 
foamed out of the heart, then he tried it with his finger 
to see whether it was fully cooked. He burned his finger, 
and put it in his mouth. But when Fafnir's heart's-blood 
came on his tongue, he understood the speech of birds. 
He heard nut-hatches chattering in the thickets. A nut- 
hatch said: 

32. "There sits Sigurth, sprinkled with blood, 
And Fafnir's heart with fire he cooks; 

30. Something has evidently been lost before this stanza. 
Sigurth clearly refers to Regin's reproach when he was digging 
the trench (cf. note on introductory prose), but the poem does 
not give such a passage. 

Prose. Rithil ("Swift-Moving") : Snorri calls the sword Refil 

32. That the birds' stanzas come from more than one source 


Wise were the breaker of rings, I ween, 
To eat the life-muscles all so bright." 

A second spake: 

33. "There Regin lies, and plans he lays 
The youth to betray who trusts him well ; 
Lying words with wiles will he speak. 

Till his brother the maker of mischief avenges." 

A third spake: 

34. "Less by a head let the chatterer hoary 

Go from here to hell; 
Then all of the wealth he alone can wield, 
The gold that Fafnir guarded." 

A fourth spake: 

35. "Wise would he seem if so he would heed 
The counsel good we sisters give ; 

is fairly apparent, but whether from two or from three or more 
is uncertain. It is also far from clear how many birds are 
speaking. The manuscript numbers II, III, and IV in the margin 
with numerals; the Volsungasaga makes a different bird speak 
each time. There are almost as many guesses as there are 
editions. I suspect that in the original poem there was one bird, 
speaking stanzas 34 and 37. Stanza 38 is little more than a 
repetition of stanza 34, and may well have been a later 
addition. As for the stanzas in Fornyrthislag (32-33 and 35-36), 
they apparently come from another poem, in which several 
birds speak (cf. "we sisters" in stanza 35). This may be the 
same poem from which stanzas 40-44 were taken, as well as 
some of the Fornyrthislag stanzas in the SigrdrifumoU 

34. Some editions turn this speech from the third person into 
the second, but the manuscript is clear enough. 

[ 381 ] 

Poetic Edda 

Thought he would give, and the ravens gladden, 
There is ever a wolf where his ears I spy." 

A fifth spake: 

36. "Less wise must be the tree of battle 
Than to me would seem the leader of men, 
If forth he lets one brother fare, 

When he of the other the slayer is." 

A sixth spake: 

37. "Most foolish he seems if he shall spare 

His foe, the bane of the folk ; 
There Regin lies, who hath wronged him so, 
Yet falsehood knows he not." 

A seventh spake: 

38. "Let the head from the frost-cold giant be hewed, 

And let him of rings be robbed ; 
Then all the wealth which Fafnir's was 
Shall belong to thee alone." . 

Siffurth spake: 

39. "Not so rich a fate shall Regin have 

35. fVolf, etc.: the phrase is nearly equivalent to "there 
must be fire where there is smoke." The proverb appears else- 
where in Old Norse. 

36. Tree of battle: warrior. 

37. Here, as in stanza 34, some editions turn the speech from 
the third person into the second. 

38. Giant: Regin was certainly not a frost-giant, and the 
whole stanza looks like some copyist's blundering reproduction 
of stanza 34. 



As the tale of my death to tell ; 
For soon the brothers both shall die, 
And hence to hell shall go." 

Sigurth hewed off Regin's head, and then he ate Faf- 
nir's heart, and drank the blood of both Regin and Fafnir. 
Then Sigurth heard what the nut-hatch said : 

40. "Bind, Sigurth, the golden rings together, 
Not kingly is it aught to fear; 

I know a maid, there is none so fair, 
Rich in gold, if thou mightest get her. 

41. "Green the paths that to G Juki lead, 

40. Neither the manuscript nor any of the editions suggest 
the existence of more than one bird in stanzas 40-44. It seems 
to me, however, that there are not only two birds, but two distinct 
stories. Stanzas 40-41 apply solely to Guthrun, and suggest that 
Sigurth will go straight to Gunnar's hall. Stanzas 42-44, on the 
other hand, apply solely to Brynhild, and indicate that Sigurth 
will find her before he visits the Gjukungs. The confusion which 
existed between these two versions of the story, and which 
involved a fundamental difference in the final working out of 
Brynhild's revenge, is commented on in the note on Gripisspo, 
13. In the present passage it is possible that two birds are 
speaking, each reflecting one version of the story; it seems even 
more likely that one speech or the other (40-41 or 42-44) reflects 
the original form of the narrative, the other having been added, 
either later or from another poem. In the Volsungasaga the 
whole passage is condensed into a few words by one bird: 
"Wiser were it if he should then ride up on Hindarfjoll, where 
Brynhild sleeps, and there would he get much wisdom." The 
Guthrun-bird does not appear at all. 

41. Gjuki: father of Gunnar and Guthrun: cf. Gripisspo, 13 
and note. 


Poetic Edda 

And his fate the waj^ to the wanderer shows; 

The doughty king a daughter has, 

That thou as a bride mayst, Sigurth, buy." 

Another spake: 

42. "A hall stands high on Hindarfjoll, 
All with flame is it ringed without; 
Warriors wise did make it once 
Out of the flaming light of the flood. 

43. "On the mountain sleeps a battle-maid, 
And about her plays the bane of the wood ; 
Ygg with the thorn hath smitten her thus, 
For she felled the fighter he fain would save. 

44. "There mayst thou behold the maiden helmed. 
Who forth on Vingskomir rode from the fight; 
The victory-bringer her sleep shall break not, 
Thou heroes' son, so the Norns have set." 

42. Hindarfjoll: "Mountain of the Hind." Light of the flood: 
gold ; cf. Reginsmol, i and note. 

43. Battle-maid: Brynhild, here clearly defined as a Valkyrie. 
Bane of the nvood: fire. Ygg: Othin; cf. Grimnismol, 53. The 
thorn: a prose note in Sigrdrifumol calls it "sleep-thorn." The 
fighter: the story of the reason for Brynhild's punishment is told 
in the prose following stanza 4 of Sigrdrifumol. 

44. Vingskomir: Brynhild's horse, not elsewhere mentioned. 
Victory-bringer: the word thus translated is in the original 
"sigrdrifa." The compiler of the collection, not being familiar 
with this word, assumed that it was a proper name, and in the 
prose following stanza 4 of the Sigrdrifumol he specifically 
states that this was the Valkyrie's name. Editors, until recently, 

[ 384 ] 


Sigurth rode along Fafnir's trail to his lair, and found 
it open. The gate-posts were of iron, and the gates; of 
iron, too, were all the beams in the house, which was dug 
down into the earth. There Sigurth found a mighty 
store of gold, and he filled two chests full thereof; he 
took the fear-helm and a golden mail-coat and the sword 
Hrotti, and many other precious things, and loaded Grani 
with them, but the horse would not go forward until 
Sigurth mounted on his back. 

have followed him in this error, failing to recognize that 
"sigrdrifa" was simply an epithet for Brynhild. It is from this 
blunder that the so-called Sigrdrifumol takes its name. Bryn- 
hild's dual personality as a Valkyrie and as the daughter of 
Buthli has made plenty of trouble, but the addition of a second 
Valkyrie in the person of the supposed "Sigrdrifa" has made 
still more. 

Prose. There is no break in the manuscript between the end 
of this prose passage and the beginning of the one introducing 
the Sigrdrifumol: some editors include the entire prose passage 
with one poem or the other. Hrotti: "Thruster." 



The Ballad of The Victory-Bringer 

Introductory Note 

The so-called Sigrdrifumol, which immediately follows the 
FafiAsmol in the Codex Regius without any indication of a break, 
and without separate title, is unquestionably the most chaotic of 
all the poems in the Eddie collection. The end of it has been 
entirely lost, for the fifth folio of eight sheets is missing from 
Regius, the gap coming after the first line of stanza 29 of this 
poem. That stanza has been completed, and eight more have 
been added, from much later paper manuscripts, but even so the 
conclusion of the poem is in obscurity. 

Properly speaking, however, the strange conglomeration of 
stanzas which the compiler of the collection has left for us, and 
which, in much the same general form, seems to have lain 
before the authors of the Volsungasaga, in which eighteen of 
its stanzas are quoted, is not a poem at all. Even its customary 
title is an absurd error. The mistake made by the annotator in 
thinking that the epithet "sigrdrifa," rightly applied to Brynhild 
as a "bringer of victory," was a proper name has already been 
explained and commented on (note on Fafnismol, 44). Even if 
the collection of stanzas were in any real sense a poem, which 
it emphatically is not, it is certainly not the "Ballad of Sigrdrifa" 
which it is commonly called. "Ballad of Brynhild" would be 
a sufficiently suitable title, and I have here brought the estab- 
lished name "Sigrdrifumol" into accord with this by translating 
the epithet instead of treating it as a proper name. 

Even apart from the title, however, the Sigrdrifumol has 
little claim to be regarded as a distinct poem, nor is there any 
indication that the compiler did so regard it. Handicapped as 
we are by the loss of the concluding section, and of the material 
which followed it on those missing pages, we can yet see that 
the process which began with the prose Fra Dautha Sinfjotla, 
and which, interrupted by the insertion of the Gripisspo, went on 
through the Reginsmol and the Fafnismol, continued through as 
much of the Sigrdrifumol as is left to us. In other words, the 
compiler told the story of Sigurth in mixed prose and verse, 
using whatever verse he could find without much questioning as 
to its origin, and filling in the gaps with his own prose. Fra 



Dautha Sinfjotla, Reginsmol, Fajnismol, and Sigrdrifumol are 
essentially a coherent unit, but one of the compiler's making only; 
they represent neither one poem nor three distinct poems, and 
the divisions and titles which have been almost universally 
adopted by editors are both arbitrary and misleading. 

The Sigrdrifumol section as we now have it is an extraor- 
dinary piece of patchwork. It is most unlikely that the com- 
piler himself brought all these fragments together for the first 
time; little by little, through a process of accretion and also, 
unluckily, through one of elimination, the material grew into its 
present shape. Certainly the basis of it is a poem dealing with 
the finding of Brynhild by Sigurth, but of this original poem 
only five stanzas (2-4 and 20-21) can be identified with any 
degree of confidence. To these five stanzas should probably, 
however, be added some, if not all, of the passage (stanzas 
6-12) in which Brynhild teaches Sigurth the magic runes. These 
stanzas of rune-lore attracted sundry similar passages from 
other sources, including stanza 5, in which a magic draught 
is administered (not necessarily by Brynhild or to Sigurth), 
the curious rune-chant in stanzas 15-17, and stanzas 13-14 and 
18-19. Beginning with stanza 22, and running to the end of the 
fragment (stanza 37), is a set of numbered counsels closely 
resembling the Loddfafnismol {Hovamol, stanzas in-138), 
which manifestly has nothing whatever to do with Brynhild. 
Even in this passage there are probably interpolations (stanzas 
25, 27, 30, 34, and 36). Finally, and bespeaking the existence at 
some earlier time of another Sigurth-Brynhild poem, is stanza 
I, sharply distinguished by its metrical form from stanzas 2-4 
and 20-21. Many critics argue that stanzas 6-10 of Helreith 
Brynildar belonged originally to the same poem as stanza i of 
the Sigrdrifumol. 

The Sigrdrifumol, then, must be regarded simply as a col- 
lection of fragments, most of them originally having no relation 
to the main subject. All of the story, the dialogue and the 
characterization are embodied in stanzas 1-4 and 20-21 and in 
the prose notes accompanying the first four stanzas; all of the 
rest might equally well (or better) be transferred to the 
Hovamol, where its character entitles it to a place. Yet stanzas 
2-4 are as fine as anything in Old Norse poetry, and it is out of 
the scanty material of these three stanzas that Wagner con- 
structed much of the third act of "Siegfried." 


Poetic Edda 

The Sigrdrifumol represents almost exclusively the contribu- 
tions of the North to the Sigurth tradition (cf. introductory note 
to the Gripisspo). Brynhild, here disguised by the annotator as 
^ "Sigrdrifa," appears simply as a battle-maid and supernatural 
/ dispenser of wisdom; there is no trace of the daughter of Buthli 
and the rival of Guthrun. There is, however, so little of the 
"poem" which can definitely be assigned to the Sigurth cycle 
that it is impossible to trace back any of the underlying narrative 

The nature and condition of the material have made editorial 
conjectures and emendations very numerous, and as most of the 
guesses are neither conclusive nor particularly important, only 
a few of thenr are mentioned in the notes. 

Sigurth rode up on Hindarfjoll and turned southward 
toward the land of the Franks. On the mountain he 
saw a great light, as if fire were burning, and the glow 
reached up to heaven. And when he came thither, there 
stood a tower of shields, and above it was a baftner. 
Sigurth went into the shield-tower, and saw that a man 
lay there sleeping with all his war-weapons. First he 
took the helm from his head, and then he saw that it 
was a woman. The mail-coat was as fast as if it had 
grown to the flesh. Then he cut the mail-coat from the 

Prose. The introductory prose follows without break the 
prose concluding the Fafnismol, the point of division being 
arbitrary and not agreed upon by all editors. Hindarfjoll: cf. 
Fafnismol, 42 and note. Franks: this does not necessarily mean 
that Sigurth was on his way to the Gjukungs' home, for Sigmund 
had a kingdom in the land of the Franks (cf. Fra Dautha Sinf- 
jotla). Shields: the annotator probably drew the notion of the 
shield-tower from the reference in Helreith Brynhildar, 9. The 
flame-girt tower was not uncommon; cf. Mengloth's hall in 



head-opening downward, and out to both the arm-holes. 
Then he took the mail-coat from her, and she awoke, and 
sat up and saw Sigurth, and said : 

1. "What bit through the byrnie? how was broken 

my sleep? 
Who made me free of the fetters pale?" 

He answered: 
"Sigmund's son, with Sigurth's sword, 
That late with flesh hath fed the ravens." 

Sigurth sat beside her and asked her name. She took a 
horn full of mead and gave him a memory-draught. 

2. "Hail, day! Hail, sons of day! 

And night and her daughter now ! 
Look on us here with loving eyes, 
That waiting we victory win. 

1. This stanza, and the two lines included in the prose after 
stanza 4, and possibly stanza 5 as well, evidently come from a 
different poem from stanzas 2-4. Lines 3-4 in the original are 
obscure, though the general meaning is clear. 

Prose (after stanza i). In the manuscript stanza 4 stands 
before this prose note and stanzas 2-3. The best arrangement 
of the stanzas seems to be the one here given, following Mullen- 
hoff's suggestion, but the prose note is out of place anywhere. 
The first sentence of it ought to follow stanza 4 and immediately 
precede the next prose note ; the second sentence ought to precede 
stanza 5. 

2. Sons of day: the spirits of light. The daughter of night 
(Not), according t© Snorri, was Jorth (Earth). 


Poetic Edda 

3. "Hail to the gods! Ye goddesses, hail, 

And all the generous earth! 
Give to us wisdom and goodly speech, 
And healing hands, life-long. 

4. "Long did I sleep, my slumber was long, 

And long are the griefs of life ; 
Othin decreed that I could not break 
The heavy spells of sleep." 

Her name was Sigrdrifa, and she was a Valkyrie. She 
said that two kings fought in battle; one was called 
Hjalmgunnar, an old man but a mighty warrior, and 
Othin had promised him the victory, and 

The other was Agnar, brother of Autha, 
None he found who fain would shield him. 

Sigrdrifa slew Hjalmgunnar in the battle, and Othin 
pricked her with the sleep-thorn in punishment for this, 
and said that she should never thereafter win victory in 
battle, but that she should be wedded. "And I said to 
him that I had made a vow in my turn, that I would 

Prose (after stanza 4). Sigrdrifa: on the error whereby this 
epithet, "victory-bringer," became a proper name cf, Fafnismol, 
44 and note. Hjalmgunnar: in Helreith Brynhildar (stanza 8) 
he is called a king of the Goths, which means little; of him and 
his adversary, Agnar, we know nothing beyond what is told 
here. The two lines quoted apparently come from the same poem 
as stanza i ; the two first lines of the stanza have been recon- 
structed from the prose thus: "Hjalmgunnar was one, the 
hoary king, / And triumph to him had Heerfather prom- 
ised." A few editions insert in this prose passage stanzas 
7-10 of Helreith Brynhildar, which may or may not have be- 
longed originally to this poem. 



never marry a man who knew the meaning of fear." 
Sigurth answered and asked her to teach him wisdom, if 
she knew of what took place in all the worlds. Sigrdrifa 

5. "Beer I bring thee, tree of battle, 

Mingled of strength and mighty fame; 
Charms it holds and healing signs, 
Spells full good, and gladness-runes." 

6. Winning-runes learn, if thou longest to win, 

And the runes on thy sword-hilt write ; 
Some on the furrow, and some on the flat, 
And twice shalt thou call on Tyr. 

7. Ale-runes learn, that with lies the wife 

Of another betray not thy trust; 

5. This stanza is perhaps, but by no means surely, from the 
same poem as stanza 1. Tree of battle: warrior. Runes: the 
earliest runes were not letters, but simply signs supposed to pos- 
sess magic power; out of them developed the "runic alphabet." 

6. Stanzas 6-12 give a list of runes which probably had no 
original connection with the Brynhild-Sigurth story. Tyr: the 
sword-god (cf. Hymiskvitha, 4 and note) ; "tyr" is also the name 
of a rune which became "T." 

7. Regius gives only lines 1-6; lines 7-8 are added from Vol- 
sungasaga. Lies, etc.: a guest on his arrival received a draught 
of ale from the hands of his host's wife, and it was to prevent 
this draught from bewitching him that the runes were recom- 
mended. Need: the word "nauth," meaning "need," is also the 
name of the rune which became "N." Leek: leeks were long sup- 
posed to have the power of counteracting poison or witchcraft. 


Poetic Edda 

On the horn thou shalt write, and the backs of thy 

And Need shalt mark on thy nails. 
Thou shalt bless the draught, and danger escape, 

And cast a leek in the cup; 
(For so I know thou never shalt see 

Thy mead with evil mixed.) 

8. Birth-runes learn, if help thou wilt lend, 

The babe from the mother to bring ; 
On thy palms shalt write them, and round thy 
And ask the fates to aid. 

9. Wave-runes learn, if well thou wouldst shelter 

The sail-steeds out on the sea ; 
On the stem shalt thou write, and the steering- 
And burn them into the oars; 
Though high be the breakers, and black the 
Thou shalt safe the harbor seek. 

10. Branch-runes learn, if a healer wouldst be. 
And cure for wounds wouldst work ; 

9. Sail-steeds: ships. 

10. Branch'runes: runes cut in the bark of trees. Such runes 
were believed to transfer sickness from the invalid to the tree. 
Some editors, however, have changed "limrunar" ("branch- 
runes") to "lifrunar" ("life-runes"). 



On the bark shalt thou write, and on trees that be 
With boughs to the eastward bent. 

1 1. Speech-runes learn, that none may seek 

To answer harm with hate ; 
Well he winds and weaves them all, 

And sets them side by side, 
At the judgment-place, when justice there 

The folk shall fairly win. 

12. Thought-runes learn, if all shall think 

Thou art keenest minded of men. 

¥l! ¥^ ^ ^ * * 

13. Them Hropt arranged, and them he wrote, 

And them in thought he made, 

11. Lines 3-6 look like an accidental addition, replacing two 
lines now lost. They mean, apparently, that the man who inter- 
weaves his speech with "speech-runes" when he pleads his case 
at the "Thing," or popular tribunal, will not unduly enrage his 
adversary in the argument of the case. 

12. Here the list of runes breaks oflF, though the manuscript 
indicates no gap, and three short passages of a different type, 
though all dealing with runes, follow. 

13. Stanzas 13-14 appear to have come from a passage re- 
garding Othin's getting of the runes similar to Hovamol, 139-146. 
Editors have tried various combinations of the lines in stanzas 
12-14. Hropt: Othin; cf. Voluspo, 62. The draught, etc.: appar- 
ently the reference is to the head of Mim, from which Othin de- 
rived his wisdom in magic (cf. Voluspo, 47 and note) ; Heith- 
draupnir ("Light-Dropper") and Hoddrofnir ("Treasure- 
Opener") seem to be names for Mim. 


Poetic Edda 

Out of the draught that down had dropped 
From the head of Heithdraupnir, 
And the horn of Hoddrofnir. 

14. On the mountain he stood with Brimir's sword, 
On his head the helm he bore ; 
Then first the head of Mim spoke forth, 
And words of truth it told. 

15. He bade write on the shield before the shining 

On Arvak's ear, and on Alsvith's hoof, 
On the wheel of the car of Hrungnir's killer, 
On Sleipnir's teeth, and the straps of the sledge. 

16. On the paws of the bear, and on Bragi's tongue. 

14. This stanza is clearly in bad shape ; perhaps, as the manu- 
script indicates, a new stanza, of which most has been lost, 
should begin with line 3. Brimir: a giant (cf. Voluspo, 9 and 
37) ; why Othin should have his sword is unknown. 

15. Stanzas 15-17 constitute a wholly distinct rune-chant. 
Line 1 is unusually long in the original, as here. Shield: the 
shield Svalin ("Cooling") that stands in front of the sun; cf. 
Grimnismol, 38. Arvak ("Early Waker") and Alsvith ("All- 
Swift") : the horses that draw the sun's car; cf. Grimnismol, 37. 
Hrungnir: the slayer of the giant Hrungnir was Thor (cf. Har- 
barthsljoth, 14 and note), but the line is in bad shape; the name 
may not be Hrungnir, and "killer" is a conjectural addition. 
Sleipnir: Othin's eight-legged horse; cf. Grimnismol, 44 and 
note. Sledge: perhaps the one mentioned in Grimnismol, 49. 

16. Bragi: the god of poetry; cf. Grimnismol, 44 and note. 



On the wolf's claws bared, and the eagle's beak, 

On bloody wings, and bridge's end, 

On freeing hands and helping foot-prints. 

17. On glass and on gold, and on goodly charms, 

In wine and in beer, and on well-loved seats. 

On Gungnir's point, and on Grani's breast, 

On the nails of Noms, and the night-owl's beak. 

18. Shaved off were the runes that of old were 

And mixed with the holy mead, 
And sent on ways so wide ; 
So the gods had them, so the elves got them, 
And some for the Wanes so wise, 
And some for mortal men. 

19. Beech-runes are there, birth-runes are there, 

And all the runes of ale. 

17. Charms: the wearing of amulets was very common. 
Gungnir: Othin's spear, made by the dwarfs, which he occasion- 
ally lent to heroes to whom he granted victory. Grant: Sigurth's 
horse; the Volsungasaga has "giantesses'." 

18. Stanzas 18-19, which editors have freely rearranged, ap- 
parently come from another source than any of the rest. Shaved 
off: the runes were shaved off by Othin from the wood on which 
they were carved, and the shavings bearing them were put into 
the magic mead. Wanes: cf. Voluspo, 21, note. 

19. Lines 3, 6, and 7 look like spurious additions, but the 
whole stanza is chaotic. Beech-runes: runes carved on beech- 


Poetic Edda 

And the magic runes of might; 
Who knows them rightly and reads them true, 
Has them himself to help; 
Ever they aid, 
Till the gods are gone. 

Brynhild spake: 

20. "Now shalt thou choose, for the choice is given, 

Thou tree of the biting blade ; 
Speech or silence, 'tis thine to say. 
Our evil is destined all." 

Sigurth spake: 

21. "I shall not flee, though my fate be near, 

I was bom not a coward to be ; 

20. Stanzas 20-21 are all that remains of the dialogue be- 
tween Brynhild and Sigurth from the poem to which stanzas 2-4 
belong; cf. Introductory Note. In the intervening lost stanzas 
Brynhild has evidently warned Sigurth of the perils that will 
follow if he swears loyalty to her ; hence the choice to which she 
here refers. Tree, etc.: warrior. The manuscript does not indi- 
cate the speaker of either this or the following stanza; the Vol- 
sungasaga names Sigurth before stanza 21. 

21. It is quite possible that the original poem concluded with 
two stanzas after this, paraphrased thus in the Volsungasaga: 
"Sigurth said: 'Nowhere is to be found any one wiser than thou, 
and this I swear, that I shall have thee for mine, and that thou 
art after my heart's desire.' She answered: 'I would rather have 
thee though I might choose among all men.' And this they bound 
between them with oaths." Stanzas 22-37, which the Volsunga- 
saga paraphrases, may have been introduced at a relatively 
early time, but can hardly have formed part of the original poem. 



Thy loving word for mine will I win, 
As long as I shall live." 

22. Then first I rede thee, that free of guilt 

Toward kinsmen ever thou art; 
No vengeance have, though they work thee harm, 
Reward after death thou shalt win. 

23. Then second I rede thee, to swear no oath 

If true thou knowest it not; 
Bitter the fate of the breaker of troth. 
And poor is the wolf of his word. 

24. Then third I rede thee, that thou at the Thing 

Shalt fight not in words with fools; 
For the man unwise a worser word 
Than he thinks doth utter oft. 

25. Ill it is if silent thou art, 

A coward born men call thee, 
And truth mayhap they tell; 

22. With this stanza begins the list of numbered counsels, 
closely resembling the Loddfafnismol {Hovamol, 111-138), here 
attributed to Brynhild. That the section originally had anything 
to do with Brynhild is more than improbable. 

23. fTolf of his word: oath-destroyer, oath-breaker. 

25. This chaotic and obscure jumble of lines has been unsuc- 
cessfully "improved" by various editors. It is clearly an inter- 
polation, meaning, in substance: "It is dangerous to keep silent 
too long, as men may think you a coward ; but if any one taunts 


Poetic Edda 

Seldom safe is fame, 
Unless wide renown be won ; 
On the day thereafter send him to death, 
Let him pay the price of his lies. 

26. Then fourth I rede thee, if thou shalt find 

A wily witch on thy road, 
It is better to go than her guest to be, 
Though night enfold thee fast. 

27. Eyes that see need the sons of men 

Who fight in battle fierce; 
Oft witches evil sit by the way, 
Who blade and courage blunt. 

28. Then fifth I rede thee, though maidens fair 

Thou seest on benches sitting, 
Let the silver of kinship not rob thee of sleep, 
And the kissing of women beware. 

29. Then sixth I rede thee, if men shall wrangle. 

And ale-talk rise to wrath, 
No words with a drunken warrior have. 
For wine steals many men's wits. 

you falsely because of your silence, do not argue with him, but 
the next morning kill him as proof that he is a liar." 

27. Probably another interpolation. 

28. Silver of kinship: the passage is doubtful, but apparently 
it means the "marriage-price" for which a bride was "bought." 

29. Line i comes at the end of the thirty-second leaf of Regius, 
and whatever further was contained in that manuscript has van- 



30. Brawls and ale full oft have been 

An ill to many a man, 
Death for some, and sorrow for some; 
Full many the woes of men. 

31. Then seventh I rede thee, if battle thou seekest 

With a foe that is full of might ; 
It is better to fight than to burn alive 
In the hall of the hero rich. 

32. Then eighth I rede thee, that evil thou shun, 

And beware of lying words; 
Take not a maid, nor the wife of a man, 
Nor lure them on to lust. 

33. Then ninth I rede thee: burial render 

If thou findest a fallen corpse, 
Of sickness dead, or dead in the sea, 
Or dead of weapons' wounds. 

34. A bath shalt thou give them who corpses be, 

ished with the lost eight-leaf folio (cf. Introductory Note). The 
rest of stanza 29, and stanzas 30-37, are added from later paper 
manuscripts, which were undoubtedly copied from an old parch- 
ment, though probably not from the complete Regius. The Vol- 
sungasaga paraphrases these additional stanzas. 

30. Probably an interpolation. 

31. The meaning is that it is better to go forth to battle than 
to stay at home and be burned to death. Many a Norse warrior 
met his death in this latter way; the burning of the house in the 
Njalssaga is the most famous instance. 

34. Probably an interpolation. 

[ 399 ] 

Poetic Edda 

And hands and head shalt wash ; 
Wipe them and comb, ere they go in the coffin, 
And pray that they sleep in peace. 

35. Then tenth I rede thee, that never thou trust 

The word of the race of wolves, 
(If his brother thou broughtest to death, 
Or his father thou didst fell;) 
Often a wolf in a son there is, 
Though gold he gladly takes. 

36. Battle and hate and harm, methinks, 

Full seldom fall asleep ; 
Wits and weapons the warrior needs 
If boldest of men he would be. 

37. Then eleventh I rede thee, that wrath thou shun. 

And treachery false with thy friends; 
Not long the leader's hfe shall be. 
For great are the foes he faces. 

35. Lines 3-4 are probably interpolated. Race of nvohes: 
family of a slain foe. 

36. Probably an interpolation. 

37. Lines 3-4 may well have come from the old Sigurth- 
Brynhild poem, like stanzas 2-4 and 20-21, being inserted here, 
where they do not fit particularly well, in place of the two lines 
with which the eleventh counsel originally ended. Perhaps they 
formed part of the stanza of warning which evidently preceded 
Brynhild's speech in stanza 20. In the Volsungasaga they are 
paraphrased at the end of Brynhild's long speech of advice 
(stanzas 20-37), 3"^ are immediately followed by the prose 
passage given in the note on stanza 21. It seems likely, therefore, 



that the paper manuscripts have preserved all of the so-called 
Sigrdrifumol which was contained in the lost section of Regius, 
with the possible exception of these two concluding stanzas, and 
these may very well have been given only in the form of a prose 
note, though it is practically certain that at one time they existed 
in verse form. 



Fragment of a Sigurth Lay 

Introductory Note 

The gap of eight leaves in the Codex Regius (cf. introductory 
note to the Sigrdrifumol) is followed by a passage of twenty 
stanzas which is evidently the end of a longer poem, the greater 
part of it having been contained in the lost section of the manu- 
script. There is here little question of such a compilation as 
made up the so-called Reginsmol, Fafnismol, and Sigrdrifumol; 
the extant fragment shows every sign of being part of a poem 
which, as it stood in the manuscript, was a complete and definite 
unit. The end is clearly marked; the following poem, Guthrunar- 
kvii/ia I, carries a specific heading in the manuscript, so that 
there is no uncertainty as to where the fragment closes. 

It seems altogether likely that the twenty stanzas thus remain- 
ing are the end of a poem entitled Sigurtharkvitha (Lay of 
Sigurth), and, more specifically, the "Long" Lay of Sigurth. The 
extant and complete Sigurth lay, a relatively late work, is re- 
ferred to by the annotator as the "Short" Lay of Sigurth, which, 
of course, presupposes the existence of a longer poem with the 
same title. As the "short" lay is one of the longest poems in the 
whole collection (seventy stanzas), it follows that the other one 
must have been considerably more extensive in order to have 
been thus distinguished by its length. It may be guessed, then, 
that not less than eighty or a hundred stanzas, and possibly 
more, of the "Long" Lay of Sigurth have been lost with the 
missing pages of Regius. 

The narrative, from the point at which the so-called Sigrdrif- 
umol breaks off to that at which the Brot takes it up, is given 
with considerable detail in the Volsungasaga. In this prose nar- 
rative four stanzas are quoted, and one of them is specifically 
introduced with the phrase: "as is told in the Lay of Sigurth." It 
is possible, but most unlikely, that the entire passage paraphrases 
this poem alone; such an assumption would give the Lay of 
Sigurth not less than two hundred and fifty stanzas (allowing 
about fifteen stanzas to each of the missing pages), and more- 
over there are inconsistencies in the Volsungasaga narrative sug- 
gesting that different and more or less conflicting poems were 
used as sources. The chances are that the "Long" Lay of Sigurth 


Brot af Sigurtharkvithu 

filled approximately the latter half of the lost section of the 
manuscript, the first half including poems of which the only 
trace is to be found in the Volsungasaga prose paraphrase and 
in two of the stanzas therein quoted. 

The course of the Volsungasaga' s story from the Sigrdrifumol 
to the Brot is, briefly, as follows. After leaving the Valkyrie, 
Sigurth comes to the dwelling of Heimir, Brynhild's brother-in- 
law, where he meets Brynhild and they swear oaths of fidelity 
anew (the Volsungasaga is no more lucid with regard to the 
Brynhild-Sigrdrifa confusion than was the annotator of the 
poems). Then the scene shifts to the home of the Gjukungs. 
Guthrun, Gjuki's daughter, has a terrifying dream, and visits 
Brynhild to have it explained, which the latter does by foretelling 
pretty much everything that is going to happen ; this episode was 
presumably the subject of a separate poem in the lost section of 
the manuscript. Guthrun returns home, and Sigurth soon arrives, 
to be made enthusiastically welcome. Grimhild, mother of Gun- 
nar and Guthrun, gives him a magic draught which makes him 
forget all about Brynhild, and shortly thereafter he marries 

Then follows the episode of the winning of Brynhild for 
Gunnar (cf. Gripisspo, 37 and note). This was certainly the sub- 
ject of a poem, possibly of the first part of the "Long" Lay of 
Sigurth, although it seems more likely that the episode was dealt 
with in a separate poem. The Volsungasaga quotes two stanzas 
describing Sigurth's triumphant passing through the flames after 
Gunnar has failed and the two have changed forms. They run 

The fire raged, the earth was rocked. 

The flames leaped high to heaven itself; 

Few were the hardy heroes would dare 

To ride or leap the raging flames. 

Sigurth urged GranI then with his sword, 
The fire slackened before the hero, 
The flames sank low for the greedy of fame, 
The armor flashed that Regin had fashioned. 
After Sigurth has spent three nights with Brynhild, laying his 
sword between them (cf. Gripisspo, 41 and note), he and Gunnar 
return home, while Brynhild goes to the dwelling of her brother- 
in-law, Heimir, and makes ready for her marriage with Gunnar, 


Poetic Edda 

directing Heimir to care for her daughter by Sigurth, Aslaug. 
The wedding takes place, to be followed soon after by the quar- 
rel between Guthrun and Brynhild, in which the former betrays 
the fact that it was Sigurth, and not Gunnar, who rode through 
the flames. Brynhild speaks with contempt of Guthrun and her 
whole family, and the following stanza, which presumably be- 
longs to the same Sigurth lay as the Brot, is quoted at this point: 

Sigurth the dragon slew, and that 

Will men recall while the world remains; 

But little boldness thy brother had 

To ride or leap the raging flames. 

Gunnar and Sigurth alike try to appease the angry Brynhild, 
but in vain. After Sigurth has talked with her, his leaving her 
hall is described in the following stanza, introduced by the spe- 
cific phrase : "as is said in the Lay of Sigurth" : 

Forth went Sigurth, and speech he sought not, 

The friend of heroes, his head bowed down ; 

Such was his grief that asunder burst 

His mail-coat all of iron wrought. 

Brynhild then tells Gunnar that she had given herself wholly 
to Sigurth before she had become Gunnar's wife (the confusion 
between the two stories is commented on in the note to Gripisspo, 
47), and Gunnar discusses plans of vengance with his brother, 
Hogni. It is at this point that the action of the Brot begins. 

Beginning with this poem, and thence to the end of the cycle, 
the German features of the narrative predominate (cf. introduc- 
tory note to Gripisspo). 

Hogni spake: 
I. "(What evil deed has Sigurth) done, 

That the hero's life thou fain wouldst have ?" 

I. The fragment begins with the last words of line i (prob- 
ably line 3 of the stanza). A few editors ascribe this speech to 
Gunnar and the next to Brynhild ; one reconstruction of lines 1-2 
on this probably false assumption runs: "Why art thou, Bryn- 


Brot af Sigurtharkvithu 

Gunnar spake: 

2. "Sigurth oaths to me hath sworn, 
Oaths hath sworn, and all hath broken; 
He betrayed me there where truest all 

His oaths, methinks, he ought to have kept." 

Hogni spake: 

3. "Thy heart hath Brynhild whetted to hate, 
Evil to work and harm to win ; 

She grudges the honor that Guthrun has, 
And that joy of herself thou still dost have." 

4. They cooked a wolf, they cut up a snake. 
They gave to Gotthorm the greedy one's flesh, 
Before the men, to murder minded, 

Laid their hands on the hero bold. 

5. Slain was Sigurth south of the Rhine; 
From a limb a raven called full loud : 

hild, daughter of Buthli, / Scheming ill with evil counsel ?" 
Hogni (German Hagene) : brother of Gunnar and Guthrun. 

2. A few editors ascribe this speech to Brynhild. Gunnar, if 
the stanza is his, has believed Brynhild's statement regarding 
Sigurth's disloyalty to his blood-brother. 

4. The Volsungasaga quotes a somewhat different version of 
this stanza, in which the snake is called "wood-fish" and the 
third line adds "beer and many things." Eating snakes and the 
flesh of beasts of prey was commonly supposed to induce ferocity. 
Gotthorm: Grimhild's son, half-brother to Gunnar. He it is who, 
not having sworn brotherhood with Sigurth, does the killing. 

5. In the manuscript this stanza stands between stanzas it 
and 12; most editions have made the change here indicated. 


Poetic Edda 

"Your blood shall redden Atli's blade, 

And your oaths shall bind you both in chains." 

6. Without stood Guthrun, Gjuki's daughter, 
Hear now the speech that first she spake : 
"Where is Sigurth now, the noble king, 
That my kinsmen riding before him come?" 

7. Only this did Hogni answer: 
"Sigurth we with our swords have slain; 
The gray horse mourns by his master dead." 

8. Then Brynhild spake, the daughter of Buthli : 
"Well shall ye joy in weapons and lands; 
Sigurth alone of all had been lord, 

If a little longer his life had been. 

9. "Right were it not that so he should rule 

O'er Gjuki's wealth and the race of the Goths; 

South of the Rhine: the definite localization of the action shows 
how clearly all this part of the story was recognized in the 
North as of German origin. Atli (Attila; cf. introductory note to 
Grip'tsspo) : the Northern version of the story makes him Bryn- 
hild's brother. His marriage with Guthrun, and his slaying of 
her brothers, are told in the Atli poems. Regarding the manner 
of Sigurth's death cf. concluding prose passage and note. Stanza 
13 indicates that after stanza 5 a stanza containing the words of 
an eagle has been lost. 

7. One line of this stanza, but it is not clear which, seems to 
have been lost. The gray horse: Grani. 

8. Some editions set stanzas 8 and 9 after stanza 11; Sijmons 
marks them as spurious. Buthli: cf. Gripisspo, 19, note. 

9. Goths: a generic term for any German race; cf. Gripisspo, 


Brot af Sigurtharkvithu 

Five are the sons for ruling the folk, 

And greedy of fight, that he hath fathered." 

10. Then Brynhild laughed — and the building 

echoed — 
Only once, with all her heart ; 
"Long shall ye joy in lands and men, 
Now ye have slain the hero noble." 

11. Then Guthrun spake, the daughter of Gjuki: 
"Much thou speakest in evil speech; 
Accursed be Gunnar, Sigurth's killer. 
Vengeance shall come for his cruel heart." 

12. Early came evening, and ale was drunk, 
And among them long and loud they talked; 
They slumbered all when their beds they sought, 
But Gunnar alone was long awake. 

13. His feet were tossing, he talked to himself. 
And the slayer of hosts began to heed 

What the twain from the tree had told him then. 
The raven and eagle, as home they rode. 

35 and note. Five sons: according to the Volsungasaga Sigurth 
had only one son, named Sigmund, who was killed at Brynhild's 
behest. Sigurtharkvitha en skamma and Guthrtinarkvitha II like- 
wise mention only one son. The daughter of Sigurth and Guthrun, 
Svanhild, marries Jormunrek (Ermanarich). 

12. The manuscript marks line 4 as the beginning of a new 
stanza, and a few editions combine it with stanza 13. 

13. Slayer of hosts: warrior (Gunnar). Raven and eagle: cf. 
note on stanza 5. 


Poetic Edda 

14. Brynhild awoke, the daughter of Buthli, 
The warrior's daughter, ere dawn of day : 
"Love me or hate me, the harm is done, 
And my grief cries out, or else I die." 

15. Silent were all who heard her speak. 

And nought of the heart of the queen they knew. 
Who wept such tears the thing to tell 
That laughing once of the men she had won. 

Brynhild spake: 

16. "Gunnar, I dreamed a dream full grim: 
In the hall were corpses ; cold was my bed ; 
And, ruler, thou didst joyless ride. 

With fetters bound in the foemen's throng. 


Utterly now your Niflung race 

All shall die ; your oaths ye have broken. 

16. Mogk regards stanzas 16 and 17 as interpolated, but on 
not very satisfactory grounds. On the death of Gunnar cf. Drap 

17. No gap is indicated in the manuscript, and some editions 
attach these two lines to stanza 16. Niflungs: this name (German 
Nibelungen), meaning "sons of the mist," seems to have belonged 
originally to the race of supernatural beings to which the treas- 
ure belonged in the German version. It was subsequently ex- 
tended to include the Gjukungs and their Burgundians. This 
question, of minor importance in the Norse poems, has evoked 
an enormous amount of learned discussion in connection with 
the Nibelungenlied. 


Brot af Sigurtharkvithu 

1 8. "Thou hast, Gunnar, the deed forgot, 

When blood in your footprints both ye mingled ; 

All to him hast repaid with ill 

Who fain had made thee the foremost of kings. 

19. "Well did he prove, when proud he rode 
To win me then thy wife to be, 

How true the host-slayer ever had held 

The oaths he had made with the monarch young. 

20. "The wound-staff then, all wound with gold. 
The hero let between us lie; 

With fire the edge was forged full keen. 

And with drops of venom the blade was damp." 

Here it is told in this poem about the death of Sigurth, 
and the story goes here that they slew him out of doors, 
but some say that they slew him in the house, on his bed 

18. Footprints: the actual mingling of blood in one another's 
footprints was a part of the ceremony of swearing blood-brother- 
hood, the oath which Gunnar and Sigurth had taken. The fourth 
line refers to the fact that Sigurth had won many battles for 

20. Regarding the sword episode cf. Gripisspo, 41 and note. 
Wound-staff: sword. 

Prose. This prose passage has in the manuscript, written in 
red, the phrase "Of Sigurth's Death" as a heading; there is no 
break between it and the prose introducing Guthrunarkvitha I, 
the heading for that poem coming just before stanza 1. This 
note is of special interest as an eflFort at real criticism. The anno- 
tator, troubled by the two versions of the story of Sigurth's death, 
feels it incumbent on him not only to point the fact out, but to 
cite the authority of "German men" for the form which appears 


Poetic Edda 

while he was sleeping. But German men say that they 
killed him out of doors in the forest; and so it is told in 
the old Guthrun lay, that Sigurth and Gjuki's sons had 
ridden to the council-place, and that he was slain there. 
But in this they are all agreed, that they deceived him in 
his trust of them, and fell upon him when he was lying 
down and unprepared. 

in this poem. The ahernative version, wherein Sigurth is slain 
in bed, appears in Sigurtharkvitha en skamma, Guthrunarfivot, 
and Hamthesmol, and also in the Volsungasaga, which tells how 
Gotthorm tried twice to kill Sigurth but was terrified by the 
brightness of his eyes, and succeeded only after the hero had 
fallen asleep. That the annotator was correct in citing German 
authority for the slaying of Sigurth in the forest is shown by the 
Nibelungenlied and the Thithrekssaga. The "old" Guthrun lay is 
unquestionably Guthrunarkvitha II, 



The First Lay of Guthrun 

Introductory Note 

The First Lay of Guthrun, entitled in the Codex Regius 
simply Guthrunarhvitha, immediately follows the remaining 
fragment of the "long" Sigurth lay in that manuscript. Unlike 
the poems dealing with the earlier part of the Sigurth cycle, the 
so-called Reginsmol, Fafnismol, and Sigrdrifumol, it is a clear 
and distinct unit, apparently complete and with few and minor 
interpolations. It is also one of the finest poems in the entire 
collection, with an extraordinary emotional intensity and dra- 
matic force. None of its stanzas are quoted elsewhere, and It is 
altogether probable that the compilers of the Volsungasaga were 
unfamiliar with It, for they do not mention the sister and daugh- 
ter of Gjuki who appear in this poem, or Herborg, "queen of 
the Huns" (stanza 6). 

The lament of Guthrun (Kriemhild) is almost certainly 
among the oldest parts of the story. The lament was one of the 
earliest forms of poetry to develop among the Germanic peoples, 
and I suspect, though the matter is not susceptible of proof, that 
the lament of Sigurth's wife had assumed lyric form as early as 
the seventh century, and reached the North in that shape rather 
than in prose tradition (cf. Guthrunarhvitha II, introductory 
note). We find traces of it in the seventeenth Aventiure of the 
Nibelungenlied, and In the poems of the Edda it dominates every 
appearance of Guthrun. The two first Guthrun lays (I and II) 
are both laments, one for Sigurth's death and the other including 
both that and the lament over the slaying of her brothers; the 
lament theme is apparent in the third Guthrun lay and in the 

In their present forms the second Guthrun lay is undoubtedly 
older than the first; In the prose following the Brot the annotator 
refers to the "old" Guthrun lay in terms which can apply only to 
the second one in the collection. The shorter and "first" lay, 
therefore, can scarcely have been composed much before the year 
looo, and may be somewhat later. The poet appears to have 
known and made use of the older lament; stanza 17, for example, 
is a close parallel to stanza 2 of the earlier poem; but whatever 
material he used he fitted into a definite poetic scheme of his 


Poetic Edda 

own. And while this particular poem is, as critics have generally 
agreed, one of the latest of the collection, it probably represents 
one of the earliest parts of the entire Sigurth cycle to take on 
verse form. 

Guthrunarkvitha I, so far as the narrative underlying it is 
concerned, shows very little northern addition to the basic Ger- 
man tradition. Brynhild appears only as Guthrun's enemy and 
the cause of Sigurth's death; the three women who attempt to 
comfort Guthrun, though unknown to the southern stories, seem 
to have been rather distinct creations of the poet's than traditional 
additions to the legend. Regarding the relations of the various 
elements in the Sigurth cycle, cf. introductory note to Gripisspo. 

Guthrun sat by the dead Sigurth ; she did not weep as 
other women, but her heart was near to bursting with 
grief. The men and women came to her to console her, 
but that was not easy to do. It is told of men that 
Guthrun had eaten of Fafnir's heart, and that she under- 
stood the speech of birds. This is a poem about Guthrun. 

I. Then did Guthrun think to die, 
When she by Sigurth sorrowing sat; 
Tears she had not, nor wrung her hands, 
Nor ever wailed, as other women. 

Prose. The prose follows the concluding prose of the Brot 
without indication of a break, the heading standing immediately 
before stanza i. Fafnir's heart: this bit of information is here 
quite without point, and it is nowhere else stated that Guthrun 
understood the speech of birds. In the Volsungasaga it is stated 
that Sigurth gave Guthrun some of Fafnir's heart to eat, "and 
thereafter she was much grimmer than before, and wiser." 

I. This stanza seems to be based on Guthrunarkvitha II, 



Guthrunarkvitha I 

2. To her the warriors wise there came, 
Longing her heavy woe to lighten ; 
Grieving could not Guthrun weep, 

So sad her heart, it seemed, would break. 

3. Then the wives of the warriors came, 
Gold-adorned, and Guthrun sought; 
Each one then of her own grief spoke, 
The bitterest pain she had ever borne. 

4. Then spake Gjaflaug, Gjuki's sister: 
"Most joyless of all on earth am I; 
Husbands five were from me taken, 
(Two daughters then, and sisters three,) 
Brothers eight, yet I have lived." 

5. Grieving could not Guthrun weep. 
Such grief she had for her husband dead, 
And so grim her heart by the hero's body. 

6. Then Herborg spake, the queen of the Huns: 

4. Gjaflaug: nothing further is known of this aunt of Guth- 
run, or of the many relatives whom she has lost. Very likely she 
is an invention of the poet's, for it seems improbable that other- 
wise all further trace of her should have been lost. Line 4 has 
been marked by many editors as spurious. 

5. Some editors assume the loss of a line, after either line 1 
or line 3. I prefer to believe that here and in stanza 10 the poet 
knew exactly what he was doing, and that both stanzas are 

6. Herborg: neither she nor her sorrows are elsewhere men- 


Poetic Edda 

"I have a greater grief to tell; 
My seven sons in the southern land, 
And my husband, fell in fight all eight. 
(Father and mother and brothers four 
Amid the waves the wind once smote, 
And the seas crashed through the sides of the 

7. "The bodies all with my own hands then 

I decked for the grave, and the dead I buried ; 
A half-year brought me this to bear; 
And no one came to comfort me. 

8. "Then bound I was, and taken in war, 
A sorrow yet in the same half-year; 
They bade me deck and bind the shoes 
Of the wife of the monarch every mom. 

9. "In jealous rage her wrath she spake, 
And beat me oft with heavy blows; 

tioned, nor is it clear what a "queen of the Huns" is doing in 
Gunnar's home, but the word "Hun" has little definiteness of 
meaning in the poems, and is frequently applied to Sigurth him- 
self (cf. note on stanza 24). Herborg appears from stanza 11 to 
have been the foster-mother of Gollrond, Guthrun's sister. Lines 
5-7 may be interpolations, or may form a separate stanza. 

7. Lines i and 2 stand in reversed order in the manuscript; I 
have followed Gering's conjectural transposition. 

9. Herborg implies that the queen's jealousy was not alto- 
gether misplaced. 


Guthrunarkvitha I 

Never a better lord I knew, 

And never a woman worse I found." 

10. Grieving could not Guthrun weep, 
Such grief she had for her husband dead, 
And so grim her heart by the hero's body. 

11. Then spake Gollrond, Gjuki's daughter: 
"Thy wisdom finds not, my foster-mother, 
The way to comfort the wife so young." 
She bade them uncover the warrior's corpse. 

12. The shroud she lifted from Sigurth, laying 
His well-loved head on the knees of his wife : 
"Look on thy loved one, and lay thy lips 
To his as if yet the hero lived." 

13. Once alone did Guthrun look; 

His hair all clotted with blood beheld, 
The blinded eyes that once shone bright, 
The hero's breast that the blade had pierced. 

14. Then Guthrun bent, on her pillow bowed, 

10. Cf. stanza 5 and note. The manuscript abbreviates to 
first letters. 

11. Gollrond: not elsewhere mentioned. Line 4 looks like an 
interpolation replacing a line previously lost. 

12. The manuscript indicates line 3 as the beginning of a 
s.anza, and some editors have attempted to follow this arrange- 

14. Many editors assume the loss of a line from this stanza. 

Poetic Edda 

Her hair was loosened, her cheek was hot, 
And the tears like raindrops downwasd ran. 

15. Then Guthrun, daughter of Gjuki, wept, 
And through her tresses flowed the tears; 
And from the court came the cry of geese. 
The birds so fair of the hero's bride. 

16. Then Gollrond spake, the daughter of Gjuki; 
"Never a greater love I knew 

Than yours among all men on earth ; 
Nowhere wast happy, at home or abroad, 
Sister mine, with Sigurth away." 

Guthrun spake: 

17. "So was my Sigurth o'er Gjuki's sons 
As the spear-leek grown above the grass, 
Or the jewel bright borne on the band, 
The precious stone that princes wear. 

18. "To the leader of men I loftier seemed 
And higher than all of Herjan's maids; 

15. The word here translated "tresses" is sheer guesswork. 
The detail of the geese is taken from Sigurtharkvitha en skamma, 
29, line 3 here being identical with line 4 of that stanza. 

16. Line i, abbreviated in the manuscript, very likely 
should be simply "Gollrond spake." 

17. Cf. Guthrunarkvitha II, 2. The manuscript does not name 
the speaker, and some editions have a first line, "Then Guthrun 
spake, the daughter of Gjuki." 

18. Herjan: Othin; his maids are the Valkyries; cf. Voluspo, 
31, where the same phrase is used. 


Guthrunarkvitha I 

As little now as the leaf I am 

On the willow hanging; my hero is dead. 

19. "In his seat, in his bed, I see no more 

My heart's true friend ; the fault is theirs, 
The sons of Gjuki, for all my grief, 
That so their sister sorely weeps. 

20. "So shall your land its people lose 
As ye have kept your oaths of yore ; 
Gunnar, no joy the gold shall give thee, 
(The rings shall soon thy slayers be,) 
Who swarest oaths with Sigurth once. 

21. "In the court was greater gladness then 
The day my Sigurth Grani saddled, 
And went forth Brynhild's hand to win, 
That woman ill, in an evil hour." 

22. Then Brynhild spake, the daughter of Buthli: 
"May the witch now husband and children want 
Who, Guthrun, loosed thy tears at last, 

And with magic today hath made thee speak." 

20. Line 4 looks like an interpolation (cf. Fafnismol, 9, line 
4), but some editors instead have queried line 5. How Guthrun's 
curse is fulfilled is told in the subsequent poems. That desire for 
Sigurth's treasure (the gold cursed by Andvari and Loki) was 
one of the motives for his murder is indicated in S'tgurtharkvitha 
en skamma (stanza 16), and was clearly a part of the German 
tradition, as it appears in the Nibelungenlied. 

21. Cf. Gripisspo, 35 and note. 

22. Line i is abbreviated in the manuscript. 


Poetic Edda 

23. Then Gollrond, daughter of Gjuki, spake: 
"Speak not such words, thou hated woman; 
Bane of the noble thou e'er hast been, 
(Borne thou art on an evil wave, 

Sorrow hast brought to seven kings,) 
And many a woman hast loveless made." 

24. Then Brynhild, daughter of Buthli, spake: 
"Atli is guilty of all the sorrow, 

(Son of Buthli and brother of mine,) 

When we saw in the hall of the Hunnish race 

The flame of the snake's bed flash round the 

hero ; 
(For the journey since full sore have I paid, 
And ever I seek the sight to forget.)" 

23. Editors are agreed that this stanza shows interpolations, 
but differ as to the lines to reject. Line 4 (literally "every wave 
of ill-doing drives thee") is substantially a proverb, and line 5, 
with its apparently meaningless reference to "seven" kings, may 
easily have come from some other source. 

24. The stanza is obviously in bad shape; perhaps it repre- 
sents two separate stanzas, or perhaps three of the lines are later 
additions. Atli: Brynhild here blames her brother, following 
the frequent custom of transferring the responsibility for a 
murder (cf. Helgakvitha Hundingsbana II, 33), because he com- 
pelled her to marry Gunnar against her will, an idea which the 
poet seems to have gained from Sigurtharkvitha en skamma, 
32-39. These stanzas represent an entirely different version of 
the story, wherein Atli, attacked by Gunnar and Sigurth, buys 
them off by giving Gunnar his sister, Brynhild, as wife. He 
seems to have induced the latter to marry Gunnar by falsely 
telling her that Gunnar was Sigurth (a rationalistic explanation 
of the interchange of forms described in the Volsungasaga and 
Gripisspo, 37-39). In the present stanza Atli is made to do this 
out of desire for Sigurth's treasure. Hunnish race: this may be 


Guthrunarkvitha I 

25. By the pillars she stood, and gathered her 
From the eyes of Brynhild, Buthli's daughter, 
Fire there burned, and venom she breathed, 
When the wounds she saw on Sigurth then. 

Guthrun went thence away to a forest in the waste, 
and journeyed all the way to Denmark, and was there 
seven half-years with Thora, daughter of Hokon. Bryn- 
hild would not live after Sigurth. She had eight of her 
thralls slain and five serving-women. Then she killed her- 
self with a sword, as is told in the Short Lay of Sigurth. 

merely an error (neither Gunnar nor Sigurth could properly 
have been connected in any way with Atli and his Huns), based 
on Sigurtharkvitha en skamma, wherein Sigurth appears more 
than once as the "Hunnish king." The North was very much in 
the dark as to the differences between Germans, Burgundians, 
Franks, Goths, and Huns, and used the words without much 
discrimination. On the other hand, it may refer to Sigurth's ap- 
pearance when, adorned with gold, he came with Gunnar to 
besiege Atli, in the alternative version of the story just cited (cf. 
Sigurtharkmtha en skamma, 36). Flame of the snake's bed: gold, 
so called because serpents and dragons were the traditional 
guardians of treasure, on which they lay. 

Prose. The manuscript has "Gunnar" in place of "Guthrun," 
but this is an obvious mistake; the entire prose passage is based 
on Guthrunarkvitha II, 14. The Volsungasaga likewise merely 
paraphrases Guthrunarkvitha II, and nothing further is known 
of Thora or her father, Hokon, though many inconclusive at- 
tempts have been made to identify the latter. Brynhild: the story 
of her death is told in great detail in the latter part of Sigurthar- 
kvitha en skamma. 



The Short Lay of Sigurth 

Introductory Note 

Guthrunarkvitha I is immediately followed in the Codex 
Regius by a long poem which in the manuscript bears the heading 
"Sigurtharkvitha," but which is clearly referred to in the prose 
link between it and Guthrunarkvitha I as the "short" Lay of 
Sigurth. The discrepancy between this reference and the obvious 
length of the poem has led to many conjectures, but the explana- 
tion seems to be that the "long" Sigurth lay, of which the Brot is 
presumably a part, was materially longer even than this poem. 
The efforts to reduce the "short" Sigurth lay to dimensions which 
would justify the appellation in comparison with other poems in 
the collection, either by separating it into two poems or by the 
rejection of many stanzas as interpolations, have been utterly 

Although there are probably several interpolated passages, 
and indications of omissions are not lacking, the poem as we 
now have it seems to be a distinct and coherent unit. From the 
narrative point of view it leaves a sood deal to be desired, for 
the reason that the poet's object was by no means to tell a story, 
with which his hearers were quite familiar, but to use the narra- 
tive simply as the background for vivid and powerful characteri- 
zation. The lyric element, as Mogk points out, overshadows the 
epic throughout, and the fact that there are frequent confusions 
of narrative tradition does not trouble the poet at all. 

The material on which the poem was based seems to have 
existed in both prose and verse form; the poet was almost cer- 
tainly familiar with some of the other poems in the Eddie collec- 
tion, with poems which have since been lost, and with the 
narrative prose traditions which never fully assumed verse 
form. The fact that he seems to have known and used the 
Oddrunargratr, which can hardly have been composed before 
1050, and that in any case he introduces the figure of Oddrun, 
a relatively late addition to the story, dates the poem as late as 
the end of the eleventh century, or even the first half of the 
twelfth. There has been much discussion as to where it was com- 
posed, the debate centering chiefly on the reference to glaciers 
(stanza 8). There is something to be said in favor of Greenland 


Sigurtharkvitha en Skamma 

as the original home of the poem (cf. introductory note to 
Atlakvitha), but the arguments for Iceland are even stronger; 
Norway in this case is practically out of the question. 

The narrative features of the poem are based on the German 
rather than the Norse elements of the story (cf. introductory 
note to Gripisspo), but the poet has taken whatever material he 
wanted without much discrimination as to its source. By the year 
iioo the story of Sigurth, with its allied legends, existed through- 
out the North in many and varied forms, and the poem shows 
traces of variants of the main story which do not appear 

I. Of old did Sigurth Gjuki seek, 

The Volsung young, in battles victor; 
Well he trusted the brothers twain, 
With mighty oaths among them sworn. 

2 A maid they gave him, and jewels many, 
Guthrun the young, the daughter of Gjuki ; 
They drank and spake full many a day, 
Sigurth the young and Gjuki's sons. 

3. Thereafter went they Brynhild to woo, 
And so with them did Sigurth ride, 

I. Gjuki: father of the brothers tivain, Gunnar and Hogni, 
and of Guthrun. In this version of the story Sigurth goes straight 
to the home of the Gjukungs after his victory over the dragon 
Fafnir, without meeting Brynhild on the way (cf. Gripisspo, 13 
and note). Volsung: Sigurth's grandfather was Volsung; cf. Fra 
Dautha Sinfjotla and note. Oaths: regarding the blood-brother- 
hood sworn by Sigurth, Gunnar, and Hogni cf. Brot, 18 and note. 

3. Brynhild: on the winning of Brynhild by Sigurth in Gun- 
nar's shape cf. Gripisspo, 37 and note. The poet here omits de- 


Poetic Edda 

The Volsung young, in batde valiant, — 
Himself would have had her if all he had seen. 

The southern hero his naked sword, 
Fair-flashing, let between them lie; 
(Nor would he come the maid to kiss;) 
The Hunnish king in his arms ne'er held 
The maiden he gave to Gjuki's sons. 

Ill she had known not in all her life. 

And nought of the sorrows of men she knew ; 

Blame she had not, nor dreamed she should bear 

But cruel the fates that among them came. 

tails, and In stanzas 32-39 appears a quite diflFerent tradition 
regarding the winning of Brynhild, which I suspect he had in 
mind throughout the poem. 

4. Southern hero: Sigurth, whose Prankish origin is seldom 
wholly lost sight of in the Norse versions of the story. On the 
episode of the sword cf. Gripisspo, 41 and note. Line 3 may well 
be an interpolation; both lines 4 and 5 have also been ques- 
tioned, and some editions combine line 5 with lines 1-3 of stanza 
5. Hunnish king: Sigurth, who was, of course, not a king of the 
Huns, but was occasionally so called in the later poems owing 
to the lack of ethnological distinction made by the Norse poets 
(cf. Guthrunarkvitha I, 24 and note). 

5. This stanza may refer, as Gering thinks, merely to the fact 
that Brynhild lived happy and unsuspecting as Gunnar's wife 
until the fatal quarrel with Guthrun (cf. Gripisspo, 45 and note) 
revealed to her the deceit whereby she had been won, or it may 
refer to the version of the story which appears in stanzas 32-39, 
wherein Brynhild lived happily with Atli, her brother, until he 
was attacked by Gunnar and Sigurth, and was compelled to give 
his sister to Gunnar, «vinning her consent thereto by representing 


Sigurtharkvitha en Skamma 

6. By herself at the end of day she sat, 
And in open words her heart she uttered : 
"I shall Sigurth have, the hero young. 
E'en though within my arms he die. 

7. "The word I have spoken; soon shall I rue it, 
His wife is Guthrun, and Gunnar's am I ; 

111 Norns set for me long desire." 

8. Oft did she go with grieving heart 
On the glacier's ice at even-tide, 

When Guthrun then to her bed was gone. 
And the bedclothes Sigurth about her laid. 

9. " (Now Gjuki's child to her lover goes,) 

Gunnar as Sigurth, her chosen hero (cf. Guthrunarkvttha I, 24 
and note). The manuscript marks line 4 as the beginning of a 
new stanza, and many editors combine it with stanza 6. 

6. Brynhild has now discovered the deceit that has been prac- 
tised on her. That she had loved Sigurth from the outset (cf. 
stanza 40) fits well with the version of the story wherein Sigurth 
meets her before he comes to Gunnar's home (the version not 
used in this poem), or the one outlined in the note on stanza 5, 
but does not accord with the story of Sigurth's first meeting 
Brynhild in Gunnar's form — an added reason for believing that 
the poet in stanzas 5-6 had in mind the story represented by 
stanzas 32-39. The hero: the manuscript originally had the 
phrase thus, then corrected it to "though I die," and finally 
crossed out the correction. Many editions have "I." 

7. Perhaps a line is missing after line 3. 

8. Glacier: a bit of Icelandic (or Greenland) local color. 

9. Line z does not appear in the manuscript, and Is based on 


Poetic Edda 

And the Hunnish king with his wife is happy; 

Joyless I am and mateless ever, 

Till cries from my heavy heart burst forth." 

10. In her wrath to battle she roused herself: 
"Gunnar, now thou needs must lose 
Lands of mine and me myself, 

No joy shall I have with the hero ever. 

11. "Back shall I fare where first I dwelt, 
Among the kin that come of my race. 
To wait there, sleeping my life away. 
If Sigurth's death thou shalt not dare, 
(And best of heroes thou shalt not be.) 

12. "The son shall fare with his father hence. 
And let not long the wolf-cub live; 
Lighter to pay is the vengeance-price 
After the deed if the son is dead." 

13. Sad was Gunnar, and bowed with grief. 
Deep in thought the whole day through; 

a conjecture by Bugge. Some editions add line 2 to stanza 8. 
The manuscript indicates line 3 as the beginning of a stanza, 
and some editors assume a gap of two lines after line 4. Hunnish 
king: cf. stanza 4. 

10. Lands: Brynhild's wealth again points to the story repre- 
sented by stanzas 32-39; elsewhere she is not spoken of as 
bringing wealth to Gunnar. 

XI. Line 5, or perhaps line 3, may be interpolated. 

12. The son: the three-year-old son of Sigurth and Guthrun, 
Sigmund, who was killed at Brynhild's behest. 


Sigurtharkvitha en Skamma 

Yet from his heart it was ever hid 
What deed most fitting he should find, 
(Or what thing best for him should be, 
Or if he should seek the Volsung to slay. 
For with mighty longing Sigurth he loved.) 

14. Much he pondered for many an hour; 
Never before was the wonder known 

That a queen should thus her kingdom leave ; 
In counsel then did he Hogni call, 
(For him in truest trust he held.) 

15. "More than all to me is Brynhild, 
Buthli's child, the best of women ; 
My very life would I sooner lose 
Than yield the love of yonder maid. 

i6. "Wilt thou the hero for wealth betray? 

13. This stanza has been the subject of many conjectural 
emendations. Some editions assume a gap after line 2, and make 
a separate stanza of lines 3-7 ; others mark lines 5-7 as spurious. 
The stanza seems to have been expanded by repetition. Grief 
(line i) : the manuscript has "wrath," involving a metrical error. 

14. Bugge and Gering transfer lines 4-5 to the beginning of 
stanza 16, on the basis of the Volsungasaga paraphrase, and 
assume a gap of one line after line 3. Line 5, which is in the 
nature of a stereotyped clause, may well be interpolated. 

15. After "Buthli" in line 2 the manuscript has "my brother," 
apparently a scribal error. In line 4 the manuscript has "wealth" 
instead of "love," apparently with stanza 10 in mind, but the 
Volsungasaga paraphrase has "love," and many editors have 
suspected an error. 

16. Cf. note on stanza 14. After thus adding lines 4-5 of 


Poetic Edda 

'Twere good to have the gold of the Rhine, 
And all the hoard in peace to hold, 
And waiting fortune thus to win." 

1 7. Few the words of Hogni were : 
"Us it beseems not so to do, 

To cleave with swords the oaths we swore, 
The oaths we swore and all our vows. 

18. "We know no mightier men on earth 
The while we four o'er the folk hold sway. 
And while the Hunnish hero lives, 

Nor higher kinship the world doth hold. 

19. "If sons we five shall soon beget. 
Great, methinks, our race shall grow; 

stanza 14 at the beginning of stanza 16, Gering marks line 4 as 
probably spurious; others reject both lines 3 and 4 as mere repe- 
titions. Rhine: the Rhine, the sands of which traditionally con- 
tained gold, was apparently the original home of the treasure 
of the Nibelungs, converted in the North to Andvari's treasure 
(cf. Reginsmol, 1-9). That greed for Sigurth's wealth was one 
of the motives for his slaying is indicated likewise in Gnthrun- 
arkvitha I, 20, and in the German versions of the story. 

18. We four: if line 1 of stanza 19 is spurious, or the refer- 
ence therein to "five" is a blunder, as may well be the case, then 
the "four" are Sigurth and the three brothers, Gunnar, Hogni, 
and Gotthorm. But it may be that the poet had in mind a tradi- 
tion which, as in the Thithrekssaga, gave Gjuki a fourth son, in 
which case the "four" refers only to the four Gjukungs. Hunnish 
hero: Sigurth; cf. stanza 4 and note. Some editions put line 4 
between lines i and 2. Some add lines 1-2 of stanza 19 to stanza 
18, marking them as spurious. 

19. We five: see note on preceding stanza. Some editors mark 


Sigurtharkvitha en Skamma 

Well I see whence lead the ways; 
Too bitter far is Brynhild's hate." 

Gunnar spake : 

20. "Gotthorm to wrath we needs must rouse, 
Our younger brother, in rashness blind; 
He entered not in the oaths we swore. 
The oaths we swore and all our vows." 

21. It was easy to rouse the reckless one. 
The sword in the heart of Sigurth stood. 

22. In vengeance the hero rose in the hall. 
And 'hurled his sword at the slayer bold; 

lines 1-2 as spurious, and either assume a gap of two lines after 
line 4 or combine lines 3-4 with stanza 20. Whence lead tlie 
nvays: a proverbial expression signifying "whence the trouble 

20. The manuscript does not name the speaker, Gotthorm 
(the name is variously spelt) : half-brother of Gunnar and Hogni 
(cf. Hyndluljoth, 27 and note, and Brot, 4 and note). The name 
is the northern form of Gundomar; a prince of this name is 
mentioned in the Lex Burgundionum, apparently as a brother 
of Gundahari (Gundicarius), In the Nibelungenlied the third 
brother is called Gemot. 

21. No gap is indicated in the manuscript, and many editors 
combine stanza 21 with stanza 22, but it seems likely that not 
only two lines, but one or more stanzas in addition, have been 
lost; cf. Brot, 4, and also the detailed account of the slaying of 
Sigurth in the Volsungasaga, wherein, as here, Sigurth is killed 
in his bed (cf. stanza 24) and not in the forest. 

22. Some editions combine lines 3-4 with stanza 23. Gram: 

[427 3 

Poetic Edda 

At Gotthorm flew the glittering steel 

Of Gram full hard from the hand of the king. 

23. The foeman cleft asunder fell, 
Forward hands and head did sink, 
And legs and feet did backward fall. 

24. Guthrun soft in her bed had slept. 
Safe from care at Sigurth's side; 
She woke to find her joy had fled. 

In the blood of the friend of Freyr she lay. 

25. So hard she smote her hands together 
That the hero rose up, iron-hearted: 
"Weep not, Guthrun, grievous tears, 
Bride so young, for thy brothers live. 

26. "Too young, methinks, is my son as yet, 
He cannot flee from the home of his foes; 

Sigurth's sword (cf. Reginsmol, prose after stanza 14) ; the word 
here, however, may not be a proper name, but may mean "the 

23. A line may well have been lost from this stanza. 

24. Freyr: if the phrase "the friend of Freyr" means any- 
thing more than "king" (cf. Rigsthula, 46 etc.), which I doubt, 
it has reference to the late tradition that Freyr, and not Othin, 
was the ancestor of the Volsungs (cf. Helgakvitha Hundingsbana 
I, 57 and note). 

25. MiillenhoflF thinks this stanza, or at any rate lines 1-2, a 
later addition based on stanza 29. 

26. My son: Sigmund; cf. stanza 12 and note, and also Brot, 
9 and note. 


Sigurtharkvitha en Skamma 

Fearful and deadly the plan they found, 
The counsel new that now they have heeded. 

27. "No son will ride, though seven thou hast, 
To the Thing as the son of their sister rides; 
Well I see who the ill has worked, 

On Brynhild alone lies the blame for alL 

28. "Above all men the maiden loved me, 
Yet false to Gunnar I ne'er was found ; 
I kept the oaths and the kinship I swore ; 
Of his queen the lover none may call me. 

29. In a swoon she sank when Sigurth died ; 
So hard she smote her hands together 
That all the cups in the cupboard rang, 
And loud in the courtyard cried the geese. 

30. Then Brynhild, daughter of Buthli, laughed, 
Only once, with all her heart, 

When as she lay full loud she heard 
The grievous wail of Gjuki's daughter. 

27. Sigurth means that although Guthrun may have seven 
sons by a later marriage, none of them will equal Sigmund, "son 
of their (i.e., Gunnar's and Hogni's) sister." Thing: council. 

28. Sigurth's protestation of guiltlessness fits perfectly with 
the story of his relations with Brynhild used in this poem, but 
not, of course, with the alternative version, used in the Gripisspo 
and elsewhere, wherein Sigurth meets Brynhild before he woos 
her for Gunnar, and they have a daughter, Aslaug. ^f 

29. Cf. Guthrunarkvitha I, 15. 

30. Cf. Brot, 10. 


Poetic Edda 

31. Then Gunnar, monarch of men, spake forth: 
"Thou dost not laugh, thou lover of hate. 

In gladness there, or for aught of good; 
Why has thy face so white a hue, 
Mother of ill? Foredoomed thou art. 

32. "A worthier woman wouldst thou have been 
If before thine eyes we had Atli slain ; 

If thy brother's bleeding body hadst seen 

And the bloody wounds that thou shouldst bind." 

Brynhild spake: 
^;i. "None mock thee, Gunnar! thou hast mightily 

But thy hatred little doth Atli heed ; 
Longer than thou, methinks, shall he live. 
And greater in might shall he ever remain. 

31. Line i may well be a mere expansion of "Gunnar spake." 
The manuscript marks line 4 as the beginning of a new stanza, 
and some editions combine lines 4-5 with stanza 32. 

32. This stanza, which all editors have accepted as an inte- 
gral part of the poem, apparently refers to the same story repre- 
sented by stanzas 37-39, which most editors have (I believe 
mistakenly) marked as interpolated. As is pointed out in the 
notes on stanzas 3, 5, 6 and 10, the poet throughout seems to have 
accepted the version of the story wherein Gunnar and Sigurth 
besiege Atli, and are bought off by the gift of Atli's sister, 
Brynhild, to Gunnar as wife, her consent being won by Atli's 
representation that Gunnar is Sigurth (cf. also Guthrunarkvitha 
I, 24 and note). 

33. The manuscript does not name the speaker, and some edi- 
tions add a first line: "Then Brynhild, daughter of Buthli, 


Sigurtharkvitha en Skamma 

34. "To thee I say, and thyself thou knowest, 
That all these ills thou didst early shape; 
No bonds I knew, nor sorrow bore, 

And wealth I had in my brother's home. 

35. "Never a husband sought I to have, 
Before the Gjukungs fared to our land; 
Three were the kings on steeds that came, — 
Need of their journey never there was. 

36. "To the hero great my troth I gave 
Who gold-decked sat on Grani's back ; 
Not like to thine was the light of his eyes, 
(Nor like in form and face are ye,) 
Though kingly both ye seemed to be. 

37. "And so to me did Atli say 

That share in our wealth I should not have. 

34. Cf. stanza 5. 

35. Three kings: Gunnar, Hogni, and Sigurth. 

36. Some editions place this stanza after stanza 39, on the 
theory that stanzas 37-39 are interpolated. Line 4, as virtually a 
repetition of line 3, has generally been marked as spurious. In 
this version of the winning of Brynhild it appears that Atli 
pointed out Sigurth as Gunnar, and Brynhild promptly fell in 
love with the hero whom, as he rode on Grant and was decked 
with some of the spoils taken from Fafnir, she recognized as the 
dragon's slayer. Thus no change of form between Sigurth and 
Gunnar was necessary. The oath to marry Gunnar had to be 
carried out even after Brynhild had discovered the deception. 

37. Most editors mark stanzas 37-39 as interpolated, but cf. 
note on stanza 32. Stanza 37 has been variously emended. Lines 
4 and 6 look like interpolated repetitions, but many editors make 


Poetic Edda 

Of gold or lands, if my hand I gave not ; 
(More evil yet, the wealth I should yield,) 
The gold that he in my childhood gave me, 
(The wealth from him in my youth I had.) 

38. "Oft in my mind I pondered much 

If still I should fight, and warriors fell. 
Brave in my byrnie, my brother defying; 
That would wide in the world be known. 
And sorrow for many a man would make. 

39. "But the bond at last I let be made. 
For more the hoard I longed to have, 
The rings that the son of Sigmund won ; 
No other's treasure e'er I sought. 

40. "One alone of all I loved. 

Nor changing heart I ever had; 
All in the end shall Atli know, 

two stanzas, following the manuscript in beginning a new stanza 
with line 4. After line i Grundtvig adds: "Son of Buthli, and 
brother of mine." After line 6 Bugge adds: "Not thou was it, 
Gunnar, who Grani rode, / Though thou my brother with 
rings didst buy." Regarding Brynhild's wealth cf. stanza 10 and 

38. Brynhild here again appears as a Valkyrie. The manu- 
script marks line 4 as the beginning of a new stanza. Any one of 
the last three lines may be spurious. 

39. Some editions combine this stanza with lines 4-5 of stanza 
38, with lines 1-2 of stanza 40, or with the whole of stanza 40. 
The bond: Brynhild thought she was marrying Sigurth, owner of 
the treasure, whereas she was being tricked into marrying 


Sigurtharkvitha en Skamma 

When he hears I have gone 

on the death-road 

41. "Never a wife 
Yet to another 

of fickle will 
man should yield. 

So vengence for all my ills shall come." 

42. Up rose Gunnar, 
And flung his arms 
And all who came, 
Sought to hold her 

the people's ruler, 
round her neck so fair ; 
of every kind, 
with all their hearts. 

43. But back she cast all those who came, 
Nor from the long road let them hold her; 

41. At this point there seem to be several omissions. Bryn- 
hild's statement in lines i-2 seems to refer to the episode, not 
here mentioned but told in detail in the Volsungasaga, of 
Sigurth's effott to repair the wrong that has been done her by 
himself giving up Guthrun in her favor, an oflFer which she 
refuses. The lacuna here suggested, which is not indicated in 
the manuscript, may be simply a single line (line i) or a stanza 
or more. After line 2 there is almost certainly a gap of at least 
one stanza, and possibly more, in which Br)rnhild states her 
determination to die. 

42. Hardly any two editions agree as to the arrangement of 
the lines in stanzas 42-44. I have followed the manuscript ex- 
cept in transposing line 4 of stanza 43 to this position from the 
place it holds in the manuscript after line 4 of stanza 44. All 
the other arrangements involve the rejection of two or more 
lines as spurious and the assumption of various gaps. Gering and 
Sijmons both arrange the lines thus: 42, 1-2; two-line gap; 43, 3 


Poetic Edda 

In counsel then did he Hogni call: 
"Of wisdom now full great is our need. 

44. "Let the warriors here in the hall come forth, 
Thine and mine, for the need is mighty, 

If haply the queen from death they may hold, 
Till her fearful thoughts with time shall fade." 

45. (Few the words of Hogni were:) 

"From the long road now shall ye hold her not. 
That born again she may never be! 
Foul she came from her mother forth. 
And born she was for wicked deeds, 
(Sorrow to many a man to bring.)" 

46. From the speaker gloomily Gunnar turned, 
For the jewel-bearer her gems was dividing; 

(marked probably spurious) ; 44, 1-4; 43-4 (marked probably 
spurious) ; 42, 3-4; 43, 1-2. 

43. Cf. note on preceding stanza. 

44. Cf . note on stanza 42. 

45. Perhaps the remains of two stanzas; the manuscript 
marks line 4 as the beginning of a new stanza, and after line 4 
an added line has been suggested: "She was ever known for 
evil thoughts." On the other hand, line i, identical with line 1 of 
stanza 17, may well be a mere expansion of "Hogni spake," and 
line 6 may have been introduced, with a slight variation, from 
line 5 of stanza 38. Born again: this looks like a trace of Chris- 
tian influence (the poem was composed well after the coming of 
Christianity to Iceland) in the assumption that if Brynhild killed 
herself she could not be "born again" (cf. concluding prose to 
Helgakvitha Hundingsbana II). 

46. The manuscript marks line 3 as beginning a stanza ; some 


Sigurtharkvitha en Skamma 

On all her wealth her eyes were gazing, 
On the bond-women slain and the slaughtered 

47. Her byrnie of gold she donned, and grim 
Was her heart ere the point of her sword had 

pierced it; 
On the pillow at last her head she laid, 
And, wounded, her plan she pondered o'er. 

48. "Hither I will that my women come 
Who gold are fain from me to get; 
Necklaces fashioned fair to each 

Shall I give, and cloth, and garments bright." 

49. Silent were all as so she spake. 
And all together answer made: 
"Slain are enough; we seek to live, 
Not thus thy women shall honor win." 

editions treat lines 1-2 as a separate stanza, and combine lines 
3-4 with lines 1-2 of stanza 47. Jena el-hearer (literally "land of 
jewels") : woman, here Brynhild. Bond-<vuomen, etc.: in stanza 69 
we learn that five female slaves and eight serfs were killed to be 
burned on the funeral pyre, and thus to follow Sigurth in death. 

47. The manuscript marks line 3, and not line i, as beginning 
a stanza, and some editions treat lines 3-4 as a separate stanza, 
or combine them with stanza 48. 

48. Brynhild means, as stanzas 49-51 show, that those of her 
women who wish to win rewards must be ready to follow her in 
death. The word translated "women" in line i is conjectural, but 
the general meaning is clear enough. 

49. In place of "as so she spake" in line I the manuscript has 


Poetic Edda 

50. Long the woman, linen-decked, pondered, — 
— ^Young she was, — and weighed her words: 
"For my sake now shall none unwilling 

Or loath to die her life lay down. 

51. "But little of gems to gleam on your limbs 
Ye then shall find when forth ye fare 
To follow me, or of Menja's wealth. 

52. "Sit now, Gunnar ! for I shall speak 

Of thy bride so fair and so fain to die; 

Thy ship in harbor home thou hast not. 

Although my life I now have lost. 

53. "Thou shalt Guthrun requite more quick than 

thou thinkest, 

Though sadly mourns the maiden wise 
Who dwells with the king, o'er her husband 

"of their plans they thought," which involves a metrical error. 

51. No gap indicated in the manuscript; many editions place 
it between lines 3 and 4. Menja's wealth: gold; the story of the 
mill Grotti, whereby the giantesses Menja and Fenja ground 
gold for King Frothi, is told in the Grottasongr. 

52. With this stanza begins Brynhild's prophesy of what is to 
befall Gunnar, Guthrun, Atli, and the many others involved in 
their fate. Line 3 is a proverbial expression meaning simply 
"your troubles are not at an end." 

53. No gap is indicated in the manuscript; one suggestion 
for line 2 runs: "Grimhild shall make her to laugh once 


Sigurtharkvitha en Skamma 

54. "A maid shall then the mother bear; 
Brighter far than the fairest day 
Svanhild shall be, or the beams of the sun. 

55. "Guthrun a noble husband thou givest, 
Yet to many a warrior woe will she bring, 
Not happily wedded she holds herself; 
Her shall Atli hither seek, 

(Buthli's son, and brother of mine.) 

56. "Well I remember how me ye treated 
When ye betrayed me with treacherous wiles ; 

Lost was my joy as long as I lived. 

more." Gering suggests a loss of three lines, and joins lines 3-4 
with stanza 54. 

54. Probably a line has been lost from this stanza. Grundtvig 
adds as a new first line: "Her shalt thou find in the hall of 
Half." Some editions query line 3 as possibly spurious. Svanhild: 
the figure of Svanhild is exceedingly old. The name means 
"Swan-Maiden-Warrior," applying to just such mixtures of 
swan-maiden and Valkyrie as appear in the Volundarkvitha. 
Originally part of a separate tradition, Svanhild appears first 
to have been incorporated in the Jormunrek (Ermanarich) story 
as the unhappy wife of that monarch, and much later to have 
been identified as the daughter of Sigurth and Guthrun, thus 
linking the two sets of legends. 

55. Line 2 in the original is almost totally obscure. Line 4 
should very possibly precede line 2, while line 5 looks like an 
unwarranted addition. 

56. This stanza probably ought to follow stanza 52, as it 
refers solely to the winning of Brynhild by Gunnar and Sigurth. 
Mullenhoff regards stanzas 53-55 as interpolated. The manu- 
script indicates no gap after line 3. 

[ 437 ] 

Poetic Edda 

57. "Oddrun as wife thou fain wouldst win, 
But Atli this from thee withholds; 

Yet in secret tryst ye twain shall love; 
She shall hold thee dear, as I had done 
If kindly fate to us had fallen. 

58. "Ill to thee shall Atli bring, 

When he casts thee down in the den of snakes. 

59. "But soon thereafter Atli too 

His life, methinks, as thou shalt lose, 
(His fortune lose and the lives of his sons;) 
Him shall Guthrun, grim of heart. 

With the biting blade in his bed destroy. 

60. "It would better beseem thy sister fair 

57. Stanzas 57-58 seem to be the remains of two stanzas, but 
the Volsungasaga paraphrase follows closely the form here 
given. Line 3 may well be spurious; line 5 has likewise been 
questioned. Oddrun: this sister of Atli and Brynhild, known 
mainly through the Oddrunargratr, is a purely northern addi- 
tion to the cycle, and apparently one of a relatively late date. 
She figures solely by reason of her love affair with Gunnar. 

58. Possibly two lines have been lost; many editions combine 
the two remaining lines with lines 1-3 of stanza 59. Concerning 
the manner of Gunnar's death cf. Drap N'tflunga. 

59. Line 3 may well be spurious, as it is largely repetition. 
The manuscript has "sofa" ("sleep") in place of "sona" ("sons"), 
but the Volsungasaga paraphrase says clearly "sons." The slay- 
ing of Atli by Guthrun in revenge for his killing of her brothers 
is told in the two Atli lays. The manuscript marks line 4 as the 
beginning of a new stanza, and some editions make a separate 
stanza out of lines 4-5, or else combine them with stanza 60. 

60. To follow in death: this phrase is not in Regius, but is 


Sigurtharkvitha en Skamma 

To follow her husband first in death, 
If counsel good to her were given, 
Or a heart akin to mine she had. 

6i. "Slowly I speak, — but for my sake 

Her life, methinks, she shall not lose; 
She shall wander over the tossing waves. 
To where Jonak rules his father's realm. 

62. "Sons to him she soon shall bear, 
Heirs therewith of Jonak's wealth; 
But Svanhild far away is sent, 
The child she bore to Sigurth brave. 

63. "Bikki's word her death shall be, 

For dreadful the wrath of Jormunrek; 

So slain is all of Sigurth's race. 

And greater the woe of Guthrun grows. 

included in late paper manuscripts, and has been added in most 

61. Jonak: this king, known only through the Hamthesmol 
and the stories which, like this one, are based thereon, is another 
purely northern addition to the legend. The name is apparently 
of Slavic origin. He appears solely as Guthrun's third husband 
and the father of Hamther, Sorli, and Erp (cf. introductory 
prose to Gutlirunarhvot) . 

62. Svanhild: cf. stanza 54 and note. 

63. Bikki: Svanhild is married to the aged Jormunrek 
(Ermanarich), but Eikki, one of his followers, suggests that she 
is unduly intimate with Jormunrek's son, Randver. Thereupon 
Jormunrek has Randver hanged, and Svanhild torn to pieces by 
wild horses. Ermanarich's cruelty and his barbarous slaying of 
his wife and son were familiar traditions long before they be- 


Poetic Edda 

64. "Yet one boon I beg of thee, 
The last of boons in ray life it is: 

Let the pyre be built so broad in the field 
That room for us all will ample be, 
(For us who slain with Sigurth are.) 

65. "With shields and carpets cover the pyre, 

Shrouds full fair, and fallen slaves, 
And besides the Hunnish hero bum me. 

66. "Besides the Hunnish hero there 
Slaves shall burn, full bravely decked, 
Two at his head and two at his feet, 
A brace of hounds and a pair of hawks. 
For so shall all be seemly done. 

67. "Let between us lie once more 

came in any way connected with the Sigurth cycle (cf. introduc- 
tory note to Gripisspo). 

64. Line 5 is very probably spurious. 

65. The manuscript indicates no gap; a suggested addition 
runs "Gold let there be, and jewels bright." Fallen slaves: 
cf. stanzas 66 and 69. Hunnish hero: cf. stanza 4 and note. 

66. In place of lines 3-4 the manuscript has one line "Two at 
his head, and a pair of hawks"; the addition is made from 
the Volsungasaga paraphrase. The burning or burying of slaves 
or beasts to accompany their masters in death was a general 
custom in the North. The number of slaves indicated in this 
stanza does not tally with the one given in stanza 69, wherefore 
Vigfusson rejects most of this stanza. 


Sigurtharkvitha en Skamma 

The steel so keen, as so it lay 
When both within one bed we were, 
And wedded mates by men were called. 

68. "The door of the hall shall strike not the heel 
Of the hero fair with flashing rings, 

If hence my following goes with him; 
Not mean our faring forth shall be. 

69. "Bond-women five shall follow him, 

And eight of my thralls, well-born are they, 
Children with me, and mine they were 
As gifts that Buthli his daughter gave. 

70. "Much have I told thee, and more would say 
If fate more space for speech had given; 

My voice grows weak, my wounds are swelling; 
Truth I have said, and so I die." 

67. Cf. Gripisspo, 41 and note. After line 1 the manuscript 
adds the phrase "bright, ring-decked," referring to the sword, 
but it is metrically impossible, and many editions omit it. 

68. The door: The gate of Hel's domain, like that of Men- 
gloth's house (cf. Svipdagsmol, 26 and note), closes so fast as to 
catch any one attempting to pass through. Apparently the poet 
here assumes that the gate of Valhall does likewise, but that it 
will be kept open for Sigurth's retinue. 

69. Cf. stanza 66. 



Brynhild's Hell-Ride 

Introductory Note 

The little Helreith Brynhildar immediately follows the 
"short" Sigurth lay in the Codex Regius, being linked to it by 
the brief prose note; the heading, "Brynhild's Ride on Hel- 
Way," stands just before the first stanza. The entire poem, with 
the exception of stanza 6, is likewise quoted in the Nornagests- 
thattr. Outside of one stanza (No. ii), which is a fairly obvious 
interpolation, the poem possesses an extraordinary degree of 
dramatic unity, and, certain pedantic commentators notwith- 
standing, it is one of the most vivid and powerful in the whole 
collection. None the less, it has been extensively argued that parts 
of it belonged originally to the so-called Sigrdrifumol. That it 
stands in close relation to this poem is evident enough, but it is 
difficult to believe that such a masterpiece of dramatic poetry 
was ever the result of mere compilation. It seems more reason- 
able to regard the Helreith, with the exception of stanza ii and 
allowing for the loss of two lines from stanza 6, as a complete 
and carefully constructed unit, based undoubtedly on older 
poems, but none the less an artistic creation in itself. 

The poem is generally dated as late as the eleventh century, 
and the concluding stanza betrays Christian influence almost 
unmistakably. It shows the confusion of traditions manifest in 
all the later poems; for example, Brynhild is here not only a 
Valkyrie but also a swan-maiden. Only three stanzas have any 
reference to the Guthrun-Gunnar part of the story; otherwise 
the poem is concerned solely with the episode of Sigurth's finding 
the sleeping Valkyrie. Late as it is, therefore, it is essentially a 
Norse creation, involving very few of the details of the German 
cycle (cf. introductory oote to Gripisspo)* 

After the death of Brynhild there were made two 
bale-fires, the one for Sigurth, and that burned first, and 
on the other was Brynhild burned, and she was on a 


Helreith Brynhildar 

wagon which was covered with a rich cloth. Thus it is 
told, that Brynhild went in the wagon on Hel-way, and 
passed by a house where dwelt a certain giantess. The 
giantess spake: 

1. "Thou shalt not further forward fare, 
My dwelling ribbed with rocks across; 
More seemly it were at thy weaving to stay, 
Than another's husband here to follow. 

2. "What wouldst thou have from Valland here, 
Fickle of heart, in this my house? 
Gold-goddess, now, if thou wouldst know. 
Heroes' blood from thy hands hast washed." 

Brynhild spake: 

3. "Chide me not, woman from rocky walls, 
Though to battle once I was wont to go; 
Better than thou I shall seem to be. 
When men us two shall truly know." 

The giantess spake: 

4. "Thou wast, Brynhild, Buthli's daughter, 

Prose. The prose follows the last stanza of S'lgurtharkmtha en 
skamma without break. Tivo bale-fires: this contradicts the state- 
ment made in the concluding stanzas of Sigurtharkv'ttha en 
skamma, that Sigurth and Brynhild were burned on the same 
pyre ; there is no evidence that the annotator here had anything 
but his own mistaken imagination to go on. 

2. Valland: this name ("Land of Slaughter") is used else- 
where of mythical places; cf. Harbarthsljoth, 24, and prose 
introduction to Volundarkvitha ; it may here not be a proper 
name at all. Gold-goddess: poetic circumlocution for "woman." 


Poetic Edda 

For the worst of evils bom in the world ; 
To death thou hast given Gjuki's children, 
And laid their lofty house full low." 

Brynhild spake: 

5. "Truth from the wagon here I tell thee, 
Witless one, if know thou wilt 

How the heirs of Gjuki gave me to be 
Joyless ever, a breaker of oaths. 

6. "Hild the helmed in Hlymdalir 

They named me of old, all they who knew me. 

"The monarch bold the swan-robes bore 
Of the sisters eight beneath an oak; 

6. In Regius these two lines stand after stanza 7, but most 
editions place them as here. They are not quoted in the Norna- 
geststhattr. Presumably two lines, and perhaps more, have been 
lost. It has frequently been argued that all or part of the passage 
from stanza 6 through stanza xo (6-10, 7-10 or 8-10) comes 
originally from the so-called Sigrdrifumol, where it would un- 
doubtedly fit exceedingly well. Hild: a Valkyrie name meaning 
"Fighter" (cf. Voluspo, 31). In such compound names as Bryn- 
hild ("Fighter in Armor") the first element was occasionally 
omitted. Hlymdalir ("Tumult-Dale") : a mythical name, merely 
signifying the place of battle as the home of Valkyries. 

7. Regarding the identification of swan-maidens with Valky- 
ries, and the manner in which men could get them in their power 
by stealing their swan-garments, cf. Volundarkvitha, introductory 
prose and note, where the same thing happens. The monarch: 
perhaps Agnar, brother of Autha, mentioned in Sigrdrifumol 
(prose and quoted verse following stanza 4) as the warrior for 


Helreith Brynhildar 

Twelve winters I was, if know thou wilt, 
When oaths I yielded the king so young. 

8. "Next I let the leader of Goths, 
Hjalmgunnar the old, go down to hell, 
And victory brought to Autha's brother ; 
For this was Othin's anger mighty. 

9. "He beset me with shields in Skatalund, 
Red and white, their rims o'erlapped ; 
He bade that my sleep should broken be 
By him who fear had nowhere found. 

10. "He let round my hall, that southward looked, 
The branches' foe high-leaping burn;. 

Across it he bade the hero come 

Who brought me the gold that Fafnir guarded. 

11. "On Grani rode the giver of gold, 

whose sake Brynhild defied Othin in slaying Hjalmgunnar. 
Eight: the Nornageststhattr manuscripts have "sisters of Atli" 
instead of "sisters eight." 

8. Hjalmgunnar: regarding this king of the Goths (the 
phrase means little) and his battle with Agnar, brother of Autha, 
cf. Sigrdrifumol, prose after stanza 4. One Nornageststhattr 
manuscript has "brother of the giantess" in place of "leader of 

9. Cf. Sigrdrifumol, prose introduction. Skatalund ("War- 
riors' Grove"): a mythical name; elsewhere the place where 
Brynhild lay is called Hindarfjoll. 

10. Branches' foe: fire. Regarding the treasure cf. Fafnismol. 

11. This stanza is presumably an interpolation, reflecting a 
different version of the story, wherein Sigurth meets Brynhild at 
the home of her brother-in-law and foster-father, Heimir (cf. 


Poetic Edda 

Where my foster-father ruled his folk ; 

Best of all he seemed to be, 

The prince of the Danes, when the people met. 

12. "Happy we slept, one bed we had, 
As he my brother bom had been ; 

Eight were the nights when neither there 
Loving hand on the other laid. 

13. "Yet Guthrun reproached me, Gjuki's daughter, 
That I in Sigurth's arms had slept; 

Then did I hear what I would were hid, 
That they had betrayed me in taking a mate. 

14. "Ever with grief and all too long 

Are men and women born in the world ; 
But yet we shall live our lives together, 
Sigurth and I. Sink down. Giantess I" 

Grtpisspo, 19 and 27). Grant: Sigurth's horse. Danes: nowhere 
else does Sigurth appear in this capacity. Perhaps this is a 
curious relic of the Helgi tradition. 

12. Eight nights: elsewhere (cf. Gripisspo, 42) the time is 
stated as three nights, not eight. There is a confusion of tradi- 
tions here, as in Gripisspo. In the version of the story wherein 
Sigurth met Brynhild before he encountered the Gjukungs, 
Sigurth was bouhd by no oaths, and the union was completed; 
it is only in the alternative version that the episode of the 
sword laid between the two occurs. 

14. The idea apparently conveyed in the concluding lines, 
that Sigurth and Brynhild will be together in some future life, is 
utterly out of keeping with the Norse pagan traditions, and the 
whole stanza indicates the influence of Christianity. 



The Slaying of The Nifiungs 

Introductory Note 

It has been already pointed out (introductory note to Regins- 
mol) that the compiler of the Eddie collection had clearly under- 
taken to formulate a coherent narrative of the entire Sigurth 
cycle, piecing together the various poems by means of prose 
narrative links. To some extent these links were based on tradi- 
tions existing outside of the lays themselves, but in the main 
the material was gathered from the contents of the poems. The 
short prose passage entitled Drap Nifiunga, which in the Codex 
Regius immediately follows the Helreith Brynhildar, is just such 
a narrative link, and scarcely deserves a special heading, but as 
nearly all editions separate it from the preceding and following 
poems, I have followed their example. 

With Sigurth and Brynhild both dead, the story turns to the 
slaying of the sons of Gjuki by Atli, Guthrun's second husband, 
and to a few subsequent incidents, mostly late incorporations 
from other narrative cycles, including the tragic death of Svan- 
hild, daughter of Sigurth and Guthrun and wife of Jormunrek 
(Ermanarich), and the exploits of Hamther, son of Guthrun 
and her third husband, Jonak. These stories are told, or outlined, 
in the two Atli lays, the second and third Guthrun lays, the 
Oddrunargratr, the Guthrunarhvot, and the Hamthesmol. Had 
the compiler seen fit to put the Atli lays immediately after the 
Helreith Brynhildar, he would have needed only a very brief 
transitional note to make the course of the story clear, but as 
the second Guthrun lay, the next poem in the collection, is a 
lament following the death of Guthrun's brothers, some sort of 
a narrative bridge was manifestly needed. 

Drap Niflunga is based entirely on the poemM which follow 
it in the collection, with no use of extraneous material. The 
part of the story which it summarizes belongs to the semi- 
historical Burgundian tradition (cf. introductory note to 
Gripisspo), in many respects parallel to the familiar narrative 
of the Nibelungenlied, and, except in minor details, showing few 
essentially Northern additions. Sigurth is scarcely mentioned, 
and the outstanding episode is the slaying of Gunnar and 
Hogni, following their journey to Atli's home. 


Poetic Edda 

Gunnar and Hogni then took all the gold that Fafnii 
had had. There was strife between the Gjukungs and 
Atli, for he held the Gjukungs guilty of Brynhild's death. 
It was agreed that they should give him Guthrun as 
wife, and they gave her a draught of forgetfulness to 
drink before she would consent to be wedded to Atli. 
The sons of Atli were Erp and Eitil, and Svanhild was 
the daughter of Sigurth and Guthrun. King Atli invited 
Gunnar and Hogni to come to him, and sent as mes- 
senger Vingi or Knefroth. Guthrun was aware of treach- 
ery, and sent with him a message in runes that they 
should not come, and as a token she sent to Hogni the 
ring Andvaranaut and tied a wolf's hair in it. Gunnar 
had sought Oddrun, Atli's sister, for his wife, but had her 
not; then he married Glaumvor, and Hogni's wife was 

Prose. NifluTtffs: regarding the mistaken application of this 
name to the sons of Gjuki, who were Burgundians, cf. Brot, 17 
and note. Draught of forgetfulness: according to the Volsun- 
gasaga Grimhild, Guthrun's mother, administered this, just aa 
she did the similar draught which made Sigurth forget Brynhild. 
Erp and Eitil: Guthrun kills her two sons by Atli as part of 
her revenge; the annotator here explains her act further by 
saying that Guthrun asked her sons to intercede with their 
father in favor of Guthrun's brothers, but that they refused, a 
detail which he appears to have invented, as it is found nowhere 
else. Svanhild: cf. Sigurtharkvitha en skamma, 54 and note. 
yingi or Knefroth: Atlakvitha (stanza i) calls the messenger 
Knefroth; Atlamol (stanza 4) speaks of two messengers, but 
names only one of them, Vingi. The annotator has here tried, 
unsuccessfully, to combine the two accounts. Andvaranaut: re- 
garding the origin of Andvari's ring cf. Reginsmol, prose after 
stanzas 4 and 5 and notes; Sigurth gave the ring to Guthrun. 
Here again the annotator is combining two stories; in Atlakvitha 
(stanza 8) Guthrun sends a ring (not Andvaranaut) with a 
wolf's hair; in Atlamol (stanza 4) she sends a message written 


Drap Niflunga 

Kostbera; their sons were Solar and Snasvar and Gjuki. 
And when the Gjukungs came to AtH, then Guthrun be- 
sought her sons to plead for the lives of both the Gjukungs, 
but they would not do it. Hogni's heart was cut out, 
and Gunnar was cast into the serpent's den. He smote on 
the harp and put the serpents to sleep, but an adder stung 
him in the liver. 

in runes. The messenger obscures these runes, and Kostbera, 
Hogni's wife, who attempts to decipher them, is not clear as 
to their meaning, though she suspects danger. Oddrun: cf. 
Sigurtharkvitha en skamma, 57 and note. Glaumvor: almost 
nothing is told of Gunnar's second wife, though she appears 
frequently in the Atlamol. Kostbera (or Bera), Hogni's wife, 
is known only as skilled in runes. Her brother was Orkning. 
The sons of Hogni and Kostbera, according to the Atlamol 
(stanza 28), were Solar and Snavar; the third son, Gjuki, 
named after his grandfather, seems to be an invention of the 
annotator's. Adder: according to Oddrunargratr (stanza 30) 
Atli's mother assumed this form in order to complete her son's 



The Second, or Old, Lay of Guthrun 

Introductory Note 

It has already been pointed out (introductory note to Guth- 
runarkvitha I) that the tradition of Guthrun's lament was 
known wherever the Sigurth story existed, and that this lament 
was probably one of the earliest parts of the legend to assume 
verse form. Whether it reached the North as verse cannot, of 
course, be determined, but it is at least possible that this was 
the case, and in any event it is clear that by the tenth and 
eleventh centuries there were a number of Norse poems with 
Guthrun's lament as the central theme. Two of these are in- 
cluded in the Eddie collection, the second one being unquestion- 
ably much the older. It is evidently the poem referred to by 
the annotator in the prose note following the Brot as "the old 
Guthrun lay," and its character and state of preservation have 
combined to lead most commentators to date it as early as the 
first half of the tenth century, whereas Guthrunarkvitha I 
belongs a hundred years later. 

The poem has evidently been preserved in rather bad shape, 
with a number of serious omissions and some interpolations, but 
in just this form it lay before the compilers of the Volsungasaga, 
who paraphrased it faithfully, and quoted five of its stanzas. 
The interpolations are on the whole unimportant; the omissions, 
while they obscure the sense of certain passages, do not destroy 
the essential continuity of the poem, in which Guthrun reviews 
her sorrows from the death of Sigurth through the slaying of 
her brothers to Atli's dreams foretelling the death of their 
sons. It is, indeed, the only Norse poem of the Sigurth cycle 
antedating the year looo which has come down to us in anything 
approaching complete form; the Reginsmol, Fafnismol, and 
Sigrdrifumol are all collections of fragments, only a short bit 
of the "long" Sigurth lay remains, and the others — Grip'isspo, 
Guthrunarkvitha I and ///, Sigurtharkvitha en skamma, Helreith 
Brynh'tldar, Oddrunargratr, Guthrunarhvot, Hamthesmol, and 
the two Atli lays — are all generally dated from the eleventh and 
even the twelfth centuries. 

An added reason for believing that Guthrunarkvitha II 
traces its origin back to a lament which reached the North 


Guthrunarkvitha II 

from Germany in verse form is the absence of most of the 
characteristic Norse additions to the narrative, except in minor 
details. Sigurth is slain in the forest, as "German men say" (cf. 
Brot, concluding prose) ; the urging of Guthrun by her mother 
and brothers to become Atli's wife, the slaying of the Gjukungs 
(here only intimated, for at that point something seems to have 
been lost), and Guthrun's prospective revenge on Atli, all 
belong directly to the German tradition (cf. introductory note 
to Gripisspo). 

In the Codex Regius the poem is entitled simply Guthrunar- 
kvitha; the numeral has been added in nearly all editions to 
distinguish this poem from the other two Guthrun lays, and 
the phrase "the old" is borrowed from the annotator's com- 
ment in the prose note at the end of the Brot. 

King Thjothrek was with Atli, and had lost most of 
his men. Thjothrek and Guthrun lamented their griefs 
together. She spoke to him, saying: 

I. A maid of maids my mother bore me, 

Bright in my bower, my brothers I loved, 

Till Gjuki dowered me with gold, 

Dowered with gold, and to Sigurth gave me. 

Prose. Thjothrek: the famous Theoderich, king of the Ostro- 
goths, who became renowned in German story as Dietrich von 
Bern. The German tradition early accepted the anachronism 
of bringing together Attila (Etzel, Atli), who died in 453, and 
Theoderich, who was born about 455, and adding thereto 
Ermanarich (Jormunrek), king of the Goths, who died about 
376. Ermanarich, in German tradition, replaced Theoderich's 
actual enemy, Odovakar, and it was in battle with Jormunrek 
(i. e., Odovakar) that Thjothrek is here said to have lost most 
of his men. The annotator found the material for this note in 
Guthrunarkvitha III, in which Guthrun is accused of having 
Thjothrek as her lover. At the time when Guthrunarkvitha II 


Poetic Edda 

2. So Sigurth rose o'er Gjuki's sons 

As the leek grows green above the grass, 
Or the stag o'er all the beasts doth stand, 
Or as glow-red gold above silver gray. 

3. Till my brothers let me no longer have 
The best of heroes my husband to be ; 
Sleep they could not, or quarrels settle, 
Till Sigurth they at last had slain. 

4. From the Thing ran Grani with thundering feet. 
But thence did Sigurth himself come never ; 
Covered with sweat was the saddle-bearer, 
Wont the warrior's weight to bear. 

5. Weeping I sought with Grani to speak. 
With tear- wet cheeks for the tale I asked; 
The head of Grani was bowed to the grass, 
The steed knew well his master was slain. 

6. Long I waited and pondered well 
Ere ever the king for tidings I asked. 

was composed (early tenth century) it is probable that the 
story of Theoderich had not reached the North at all, and the 
annotator is consequently wrong in giving the poem its setting. 

2. Cf. Guthrunarkvitha I, 17. 

4. Regarding the varying accounts of the manner of Sigurth's 
death cf. Brot, concluding prose and note. Grani: cf. Brot, 7. 

6. No gap indicated in the manuscript. Some editions com- 
bine these two lines with either stanza 5 or stanza 7. 


Guthrunarkvitha II 

7. His head bowed Gunnar, but Hogni told 
The news full sore of Sigurth slain : 
"Hewed to death at our hands he lies, 
Gotthorm's slayer, given to wolves. 

8. "On the southern road thou shalt Sigurth see. 
Where hear thou canst the ravens cry ; 

The eagles cry as food they crave, 

And about thy husband wolves are howling." 

9. "Why dost thou, Hogni, such a horror 
Let me hear, all joyless left? 

Ravens yet thy heart shall rend 

In a land that never thou hast known." 

10. Few the words of Hogni were. 
Bitter his heart from heavy sorrow: 
"Greater, Guthrun, thy grief shall be 
If the ravens so my heart shall rend." 

1 1 . From him who spake I turned me soon, 

In the woods to find what the wolves had left; 
Tears I had not, nor wrung my hands. 

7. Gotthorm: from this it appears that in both versions of 
the death of Sigurth the mortally wounded hero killed his 
murderer, the younger brother of Gunnar and Hogni. The story 
of how Gotthorm was slain after killing Sigurth in his bed is 
told in Sigurtharkvitha en skamma, 22-23, ^"d in the Volsung- 

II. On lines 3-4 cf. Guthrunarkvitha I, i. Line 5 is probably 


Poetic Edda 

Nor wailing went, as other women, 
(When by Sigurth slain I sat). 

12. Never so black had seemed the night 
As when in sorrow by Sigurth I sat ; 
The wolves .... 

13- . . 

Best of all methought 'twould be 

If I my life could only lose, 

Or like to birch-wood burned might be. 

14. From the mountain forth five days I fared, 
Till Hoalf's hall so high I saw; 

12. Many editions make one stanza of stanzas 12 and 13, 
reconstructing line 3 ; the manuscript shows no gap. Bugge fills 
out the stanza thus: "The wolves were howling on all the 
ways, / The eagles cried as their food they craved." 

13. Cf. note on preceding stanza. Grundtvig suggests as a 
first line: "Long did I bide, my brothers awaiting." Many 
editors reject line 4. 

14. The manuscript marks line 3 as beginning a stanza, and 
many editions combine lines 3-4 with lines i-2 of stanza 15. 
Hoalf (or Half) : Gering thinks this Danish king may be 
identical with Alf, son of King Hjalprek, and second husband 
of Hjordis, Sigurth's mother (cf. Fra Dautha Sinfjotla and 
note), but the name was a common one. Thora and Hokon have 
not been identified (cf. Guthrunarkvitha I, concluding prose, 
which is clearly based on this stanza). A Thora appears in 
Hyndluljoth, 18, as the wife of Dag, one of the sons of Halfdan 
the Old, the most famous of Denmark's mythical kings, and 
one of her sons is Alf (Hoalf?). 


Guthrunarkvitha II 

Seven half-years with Thora I stayed, 
Hokon's daughter, in Denmark then. 

15. With gold she broidered, to bring me joy, 
Southern halls and Danish swans; 

On the tapestry wove we warrior's deeds. 
And the hero's thanes on our handiwork; 
(Flashing shields and fighters armed. 
Sword-throng, helm-throng, the host of the 

16. Sigmund's ship by the land was sailing, 
Golden the figure-head, gay the beaks; 
On board we wove the warriors faring, 
Sigar and Siggeir, south to Fjon. 

17. Then Grimhild asked, the Gothic queen. 
Whether willingly would I 

15. The manuscript marks line 3 as the beginning of a 
stanza. Some editors combine lines 5-6 with lines 1-2 of stanza 
16, while others mark them as interpolated. 

16. Some editions combine lines 3-4 with stanza 17. Sigmund: 
Sigurth's father, who here appears as a sea-rover in Guthrun's 
tapestry. Sigar: named in Fornaldar sogur 11, 10, as the father 
of Siggeir, the latter being the husband of Sigmund's twin 
sister, Signy (cf. Fra Dautha Sinfjotla). Fjon: this name, 
referring to the Danish island of Fiinen, is taken from the 
Volsungasaga paraphrase as better fitting the Danish setting of 
the stanza than the name in Regius, which is "Fife" (Scotland), 

17. No gap is indicated in the manuscript, and most editions 
combine these two lines either with lines 3-4 of stanza 16, with 
lines 1-2 of stanza 18, or with the whole of stanza 18. Line 2 


Poetic Edda 

1 8. Her needlework cast she aside, and called 
Her sons to ask, with stern resolve, 

Who amends to their sister would make for her 

Or the wife requite for her husband killed. 

19. Ready was Gunnar gold to give. 
Amends for my hurt, and Hogni too ; 
Then would she know who now would go, 
The horse to saddle, the wagon to harness, 
(The horse to ride, the hawk to fly, 

And shafts from bows of yew to shoot). 

20. (Valdar, king of the Danes, was come. 
With Jarizleif, Eymoth, and Jarizskar). 

has been filled out in various ways. The Volsungasaga para- 
phrase indicates that these two lines are the remains of a full 
stanza, the prose passage running: "Now Guthrun was some- 
what comforted of her sorrows. Then Grimhild learned where 
Guthrun was now dwelling." The first two lines may be the 
ones missing. Gothic: the term "Goth" was used in the North 
without much discrimination to apply to all south-Germanic 
peoples. In Gripisspo, 35, Gunnar, Grimhild's son, appears as 
"lord of the Goths." 

18. The manuscript marks line 3 as the beginning of a 
stanza. Grimhild is eager to have amends made to Guthrun for 
the slaying of Sigurth and their son, Sigmund, because Atli has 
threatened war if he cannot have Guthrun for his wife. 

19. Lines 5-6 are almost certainly interpolations, made by a 
scribe with a very vague understanding of the meaning of the 
stanza, which refers simply to the journey of the Gjukungs to 
bring their sister home from Denmark. 

20. Lines 1-2 are probably interpolated, though the Volsung- 
asaga includes the names. Some one apparently attempted to 


Guthrunarkvitha II 

In like princes came they all, 
The long-beard men, with mantles red, 
Short their mail-coats, mighty their helms, 
Swords at their belts, and brown their hair. 

21. Each to give me gifts was fain. 
Gifts to give, and goodly speech, 
Comfort so for my sorrows great 

To bring they tried, but I trusted them not. 

22. A draught did Grimhild give me to drink. 
Bitter and cold; I forgot my cares; 

supply the names of Atli's messengers, the "long-beard men" 
of line 4, who have come to ask for Guthrun's hand. Some 
commentators assume, as the Volsungasaga does, that these mes- 
sengers went with the Gjukungs to Denmark in search of 
Guthrun, but it seems more likely that a transitional stanza has 
dropped out after stanza 19, and that Guthrun received Atli's 
emissaries in her brothers' home. Long-beards: the word may 
actually mean Langobards or Lombards, but, if it does, it is 
presumably without any specific significance here. Certainly the 
names in the interpolated two lines do not fit either Lombards 
or Huns, for Valdar is identified as a Dane, and Jarizleif and 
Jarizskar are apparently Slavic. The manuscript indicates line 
5 as beginning a new stanza. 

21. Each: the reference is presumably to Gunnar and Hogni, 
and perhaps also Grimhild. I suspect that this stanza belongs 
before stanza 20. 

22. Stanzas 22-25 describe the draught of forgetfulness which 
Grimhild gives Guthrun, just as she gave one to Sigurth (in 
one version of the story) to make him forget Brynhild. The 
draught does not seem to work despite Guthrun's statement in 
stanza 25 (cf. stanza 30), for which reason Vigfusson, not 
unwisely, places stanzas 22-25 after stanza 34. Blood of swne: 
cf. Hyndluljoth, 39 and note. 


Poetic Edda 

For mingled therein was magic earth, 
Ice-cold sea, and the blood of swine. 

23. In the cup were runes of every kind, 
Written and reddened, I could not read them; 
A heather-fish from the Haddings' land, 

An ear uncut, and the entrails of beasts. 

24. Much evil was brewed within the beer, 
Blossoms of trees, and acorns burned. 
Dew of the hearth, and holy entrails, 
The liver of swine, — all grief to allay. 

25. Then I forgot, when the draught they gave me, 
There in the hall, my husband's slaying; 

On their knees the kings all three did kneel. 
Ere she herself to speak began: 

23. The Volsungasaga quotes stanzas 23-24. Heather-fish: a 
snake. Haddings' land: the world of the dead, so called because, 
according to Saxo Grammaticus, the Danish king Hadingus once 
visited it. It is possible that the comma should follow "heather- 
fish," making the "ear uncut" (of grain) come from the world 
of the dead. 

24. Deio of the hearth: soot. 

25. In the manuscript, and in some editions, the first line is 
in the third person plural : "Then they forgot, when the 
draught they had drunk." The second line in the original is 
manifestly in bad shape, and has been variously emended. / 
forgot: this emendation is doubtful, in view of stanza 30, but 
cf. note to stanza 22. The kings all three: probably Atli's emis- 
saries, though the interpolated lines of stanza 20 name four 
of them. I suspect that line 4 is wrong, and should read: "Ere 
he himself (Atli) to speak began." Certainly stanzas 26-27 


Guthrunarkvitha II 

26. "Guthrun, gold to thee I give, 

The wealth that once thy father's was, 
Rings to have, and Hlothver's halls, 
And the hangings all that the monarch had. 

27. "Hunnish women, skilled in weaving, 
Who gold make fair to give thee joy. 
And the wealth of Buthli thine shall be, 
Gold-decked one, as Atli's wife." 

Guthrun spake: 

28. "A husband now I will not have. 
Nor wife of Brynhild's brother be; 
It beseems me not with Buthli's son 
Happy to be, and heirs to bear." 

fit Atli much better than they do Grimhlld, and there is nothing 
unreasonable in Atli's having come in person, along with his 
tributary kings, to seek Guthrun's hand. However, the "three 
kings" may not be Atli's followers at all, but Gunnar, Hogni, 
and the unnamed third brother possibly referred to in Sigurth- 
arkvitha en skamma, 18. 

26. Thy father's: So the manuscript, in which case the refer- 
ence is obviously to Gjuki. But some editions omit the "thy," 
and if Atli, and not Grimhild, is speaking (cf. note on stanza 
25), the reference may be, as in line 3 of stanza 27, to the wealth 
of Atli's father, Buthli. Hlothver: the northern form of the 
Prankish name Chlodowech (Ludwig), but who this Hlothver 
was, beyond the fact that he was evidently a Prankish king, is 
uncertain. If Atli is speaking, he is presumably a Prankish 
ruler whose land Atli and his Huns have conquered. 

27. Cf. note on stanza 25 as to the probable speaker. 

28. In stanzas 28-32 the dialogue, in alternate stanzas, is 
clearly between Guthrun and her mother, Grimhild, though the 
manuscript does not indicate the speakers. 


Poetic Edda 

Grimhild spake: 
29. "Seek not on men to avenge thy sorrows, 

Though the blame at first with us hath been ; 
Happy shalt be as if both still lived, 
Sigurth and Sigmund, if sons thou bearest." 

Guthrun spake: 
30. "Grimhild, I may not 
Nor hold forth hopes 
Since once the raven 

gladness find, 
to heroes now, 
and ravening wolf 

Sigurth's heart's-blood hungrily lapped." 

Grimhild spake: 
31. "Noblest of birth 

I have found for thee, 
Him shalt thou have 
Or husbandless be 

is the ruler now 

and foremost of all ; 
while life thou hast, 

if him thou wilt choose not. 

Guthrun spake: 
32. "Seek not so eagerly me to send 
To be a bride of yon baneful race; 
On Gunnar first his wrath shall fall. 
And the heart will he tear from Hogni's breast." 

29. Sigmund: son of Sigurth and Guthrun, killed at Bryn- 
hild's behest. 

30. This stanza presents a strong argument for transposing 
the description of the draught of forgetfulness (stanzas 22-24 
and lines 1-2 of stanza 25) to follow stanza 33. Raven, etc.: the 
original is somewhat obscure, and the line may refer simply to 
the "corpse-eating raven." 

32. In the manuscript this stanza is immediately followed by 
the two lines which here, following Bugge's suggestion, appear 


Guthrunarkvitha II 

33. Weeping Grimhild 
That fate full sore 
(And mighty woe 
"Lands I give thee, 
(Vinbjorg is thine, 
Have them forever. 

heard the words 
for her sons foretold, 
for them should work;) 
with all that live there, 
and Valbjorg too,) 
but hear me, daughter." 

34. So must I do as the kings besought, 

And against my will for my kinsmen wed ; 

Ne'er with my husband joy I had. 

And my sons by my brothers' fate were saved not. 


I could not rest 
The warrior bold. 

till of life I had robbed 
the maker of battles. 

36. Soon on horseback each hero was, 

as stanza 35. In lines 3-4 Guthrun foretells what will (and 
actually does) happen if she is forced to become Atli's wife. 
If stanza 35 really belongs here, it continues the prophesy to 
the effect that Guthrun will have no rest till she has avenged 
her brothers' death. 

33. Very likely the remains of two stanzas; the manuscript 
marks line 4 as beginning a new stanza. On the other hand, 
lines 3 and 5 may be interpolations. Vinb']org and Valbjorg: 
apparently imaginary place-names. 

34. The kings: presumably Gunnar and Hogni. My sons: 
regarding Guthrun's slaying of her two sons by Atli, Erp and 
Eitil, of. Drap Niftunga, note. 

35. In the manuscript this stanza follows stanza 32. The 
loss of two lines, to the effect that "111 was that marriage for 
my brothers, and ill for Atli himself," and the transposition of 
the remaining two lines to this point, are indicated in a number 
of editions. The warrior, etc.: Atli, whom Guthrun kills. 


Poetic Edda 

And the foreign women in wagons faring; 
A week through lands so cold we went, 
And a second week the waves we smote, 
(And a third through lands that water lacked). 

37. The warders now on the lofty walls 
Opened the gates, and in we rode. 

38. Atli woke me, for ever I seemed 

Of bitterness full for my brothers* death. 

J tit spake: 

39. "Now from sleep the Noms have waked me 
With visions of terror, — to thee will I tell them ; 
Methought thou, Guthrun, Gjuki's daughter, 
With poisoned blade didst pierce my body." 

36. The stanza describes the journey to Atll's home, and 
sundry unsuccessful efforts have been made to follow the 
travellers through Germany and down the Danube. Foreign 
luotnen: slaves. Line 5, which the manuscript marks as be- 
ginning a stanza, is probably spurious. 

37. After these two lines there appears to be a considerable 
gap, the lost stanzas giving Guthrun's story of the slaying of 
her brothers. It is possible that stanzas 38-45 came originally 
from another poem, dealing with Atli's dream, and were here 
substituted for the original conclusion of Guthrun's lament. 
Many editions combine stanzas 37 and 38, or combine stanza 
38 (the manuscript marks line i as beginning a stanza) with 
lines 1-2 of stanza 39. 

39. The manuscript indicates line 3 as the beginning of a 
stanza. The manuscript and most editions do not indicate the 
speakers in this and the following stanzas. 


Guthrunarkvitha II 

Guthrun spake: 

40. "Fire a dream of steel shall follovv? 

And willful pride one of woman's wrath; 

A baneful sore I shall burn from thee, 

And tend and heal thee, though hated thou art." 

Atli spake: 

41. "Of plants I dreamed, in the garden drooping, 
That fain would I have full high to grow ; 
Plucked by the roots, and red with blood, 
They brought them hither, and bade me eat. 

42. "I dreamed my hawks from my hand had flown, 
Eager for food, to an evil house ; 

I dreamed their hearts with honey I ate, 
Soaked in blood, and heavy my sorrow. 

43. "Hounds I dreamed from my hand I loosed, 
Loud in hunger and pain they howled; 
Their flesh methought was eagles' food, 
And their bodies now I needs must eat." 

Guthrun spake: 

44. "Men shall soon of sacrifice speak. 

40. Guthrun, somewhat obscurely, interprets Atli's first dream 
(stanza 39) to mean that she will cure him of an abscess by 
cauterizing it. Her interpretation is, of course, intended merely 
to blind him to her purpose. 

41. In stanzas 41-43 Atli's dreams forecast the death of his 
two sons, whose flesh Guthrun gives him to eat (cf. Atlakvitha, 
39, and Atlamol, 78). 

44. This stanza is evidently Guthrun's intentionally cryptic 


Poetic Edda 

And off the heads of beasts shall hew ; 
Die they shall ere day has dawned, 
A few nights hence, and the folk shall have 

Atli spake: 
45. "On my bed I sank, nor slumber sought, 
Weary with woe, — full well I remember." 

interpretation of Atli's dreams, but the meaning of tlie original 
is more than doubtful. The word here rendered "sacrifice" may 
mean "sea-catch," and the one rendered "beasts" may mean 
"whales." None of the attempted emendations have rendered 
the stanza really intelligible, but it appears to mean that Atli 
will soon make a sacrifice of beasts at night, and give their 
bodies to the people. Guthrun of course has in mind the slaying 
of his two sons. 

45. With these two lines the poem abruptly ends; some 
editors assign the speech to Atli (I think rightly), others to 
Guthrun. Ettmiiller combines the lines with stanza 38. Whether 
stanzas 38-45 originally belonged to Guthrun's lament, or were 
interpolated here in place of the lost conclusion of that poem 
from another one dealing with Atli's dreams (cf. note on stanza 
37), it is clear that the end has been lost. 



The Third Lay of Guthrun 

Introductory Note 

The short Guthrunarkvitha III, entitled .n the manuscript 
simply Guthrunarkvitha, but so numbered in most editions to 
distinguish it from the first and second Guthrun lays, appears 
only in the Codex Regius. It is neither quoted nor paraphrased 
in the Volsungasaga, the compilers of which appear not to have 
known the story with which it deals. The poem as we have it 
is evidently complete and free from serious interpolations. It 
can safely be dated from the first half of the eleventh century, 
for the ordeal by boiling water, with which it is chiefly con- 
cerned, was first introduced into Norway by St. Olaf, who died 
in 1030, and the poem speaks of it in stanza 7 as still of foreign 

The material for the poem evidently came from North Ger- 
many, but there is little indication that the poet was working 
on the basis of a narrative legend already fully formed. The 
story of the wife accused of faithlessness who proves her 
innocence by the test of boiling water had long been current in 
Germany, as elsewhere, and had attached itself to various 
women of legendary fame, but not except in this poem, so far 
as we can judge, to Guthrun (Kriemhild). The introduction of 
Thjothrek (Theoderich, Dietrich, Thithrek) is another indica- 
tion of relative lateness, for the legends of Theoderich do not 
appear to have reached the North materially before the year 
1000. On the anachronism of bringing Thjothrek to Atli's court 
cf. Guthrunarkvitha II, introductory prose, note, in which the 
development of the Theoderich tradition in its relation to that 
of Atli is briefly outlined. 

Guthrunarkvitha III is, then, little more than a dramatic 
German story made into a narrative lay by a Norse poet, with 
the names of Guthrun, Atli, Thjothrek, and Herkja incorporated 
for the sake of greater effectiveness. Its story probably nowhere 
formed a part of the living tradition of Sigurth and Atli, but 
the poem has so little distinctively Norse coloring that it may 
possibly have been based on a story or even a poem which its 
composer heard in Germany or from the lips of a German 


Poetic Edda 

Herkja was the name of a serving-woman of Atli's; 
she had been his concubine. She told Atli that she had 
seen Thjothrek and Guthrun both together. Atli was 
greatly angered thereby. Then Guthrun said: 

1. "What thy sorrow, Atli, Buthli's son? 

Is thy heart heavy-laden? Why laughest thou 

never ? 
It would better befit the warrior far 
To speak with men, and me to look on." 

Atli spake: 

2. "It troubles me, Guthrun, Gjuki's daughter. 
What Herkja here in the hall hath told me. 
That thou in the bed with Thjothrek liest, 
Beneath the linen in lovers' guise." 

Guthrun spake: 

3. "This shall I with oaths now swear. 
Swear by the sacred stone so white. 

That nought was there with Thjothmar's son 
That man or woman may not know. 

Prose. The annotator derived all the material for this note 
from the poem itself, except for the reference to Herkja as 
Atli's former concubine. Herkja: the historical Kreka and the 
Helche of the Nibelungenl'ted, who there appears as Etzel's 
(Attila's) first wife. Thjothrek: cf. Introductory Note. 

2. The manuscript omits the names of the speakers through- 

3. Holy stone: just what this refers to is uncertain; it may 
be identical with the "ice-cold stone of Uth" mentioned in an 
oath in Helgakvitha Hundingsbana H, 29. Thjothmar's son: the 
manuscript has simply "Thjothmar." Some editions change it as 


Guthrunarkvitha III 

4. "Nor ever once did my arms embrace 
The hero brave, the leader of hosts ; 
In another manner our meeting was, 
When our sorrows we in secret told. 

5. "With thirty warriors Thjothrelc came, 
Nor of all his men doth one remain ; 

Thou hast murdered my brothers and mail-clad 

Thou hast murdered all the men of my race. 

6. "Gunnar comes not, Hogni I greet not, 
No longer I see my brothers loved; 

My sorrow would Hogni avenge with the sword, 
Now myself for my woes I shall payment win. 

7. "Summon Saxi, the southrons' king. 
For he the boiling kettle can hallow." 

here, some assume that Thjothmar is another name or an error 
for Thjothrek, and Finnur Jonsson not only retains Thjothmar 
here but changes Thjothrek to Thjothmar in stanza 5 to conform 
to it. 

5. Regarding the death of Thjothrek's men cf. Guthrunar- 
kvitha II, introductory prose, note. It was on these stanzas of 
Guthrunarkvitha III that the annotator based his introduction 
to Guthrunarkvitha II. The manuscript repeats the "thirty" in 
line 2, in defiance of metrical requirements. 

6. In the manuscript this stanza follows stanza 7; many 
editions have made the transposition. 

7. Who Saxi may be is not clear, but the stanza clearly points 
to the time when the ordeal by boiling water was still regarded 
as a foreign institution, and when a southern king (i. e., a 
Christian frcfm some earlier-converted region) was necessary 


Poetic Edda 

Seven hundred there were in the hall, 

Ere the queen her hand in the kettle thrust. 

8. To the bottom she reached with hand so bright, 
And forth she brought the flashing stones: 
"Behold, ye warriors, well am I cleared 

Of sin by the kettle's sacred boiling." 

9. Then Atli's heart in happiness laughed, 
When Guthrun's hand unhurt he saw; 
"Now Herkja shall come the kettle to try, 
She who grief for Guthrun planned." 

10. Ne'er saw man sight more sad than this, 

How burned were the hands of Herkja then; 
In a bog so foul the maid they flung, 
And so was Guthrun's grief requited. 

to consecrate the kettle used in the test. The ordeal by boiling 
water followed closely the introduction of Christianity, which 
took place around the year 1000. Some editions make two stanzas 
out of stanza 7, and Miillenhoff contends that lines 1-2 do not 
constitute part of Guthrun's speech. 

10. The word "requited" in line 4 is omitted in the manu- 
script, but it is clear that some such word was intended. The 
punishment of casting a culprit into a bog to be drowned was 
particularly reserved for women, and is not infrequently men- 
tioned in the sagas. 



The Lament of Oddrun 

Introductory Note 

The Oddrunargratr follows Guthrunarkvitha III in the 
Codex Regius; it is not quoted or mentioned elsewhere, except 
that the composer of the "short" Sigurth lay seems to have been 
familiar with it. The Volsungasaga says nothing of the story 
on which it is based, and mentions Oddrun only once, in the 
course of its paraphrase of Brynhild's prophecy from the "short" 
Sigurth lay. That the poem comes from the eleventh century is 
generally agreed; prior to the year looo there is no trace of 
the figure of Oddrun, Atli's sister, and yet the Oddrunargratr 
is almost certainly older than the "short" Sigurth lay, so that 
the last half of the eleventh century seems to be a fairly safe 

Where or how the figure of Oddrun entered the Sigurth-Atli 
cycle is uncertain. She does not appear in any of the extant 
German versions, and i* is generally assumed that she was a 
creation of the North, though the poet refers to "old tales" 
concerning her. She does not directly affect the course of the 
story at all, though the poet has used effectively the episode of 
Gunnar's death, with the implication that Atli's vengeance on 
Gunnar and Hogni was due, at least in part, to his discovery 
of Gunnar's love affair with Oddrun. The material which forms 
the background of Oddrun's story belongs wholly to the German 
part of the legend (cf. introductory note to Gripisspo), and is 
paralleled with considerable closeness in the Nibelungenlied; 
only Oddrun herself and the subsidiary figures of Borgny and 
Vilmund are Northern additions. The geography, on the other 
hand, is so utterly chaotic as to indicate that the original locali- 
zation of the Atli story had lost all trace of significance by the 
time this poem was composed. 

In the manuscript the poem, or rather the brief introductory 
prose note, bears the heading "Of Borgny and Oddrun," but 
nearly all editions, following late paper manuscripts, have 
given the poem the title it bears here. Outside of a few appar- 
ently defective stanzas, and some confusing transpositions, the 
poem has clearly been preserved in good condition, and the 
beginning and end are definitely marked. 


Poetic Edda 

Heithrek was the name of a king, whose daughter was 
called Borgny. Vilmund was the name of the man who 
was her lover. She could not give birth to a child until 
Oddrun, Atli's sister, had come to her; Oddrun had been 
beloved of Gunnar, son of Gjuki. About this story is the 
following poem. 

1. I have heard it told in olden tales 
How a maiden came to Morningland; 
No one of all on earth above 

To Heithrek's daughter help could give. 

2. This Oddrun learned, the sister of Atli, 
That sore the maiden's sickness was; 

The bit-bearer forth from his stall she brought, 
And the saddle laid on the steed so black. 

3. She let the horse go o'er the level ground. 
Till she reached the hall that loftily rose, 

Prose. Nothing further is known of Heithrek, Borgny or 
Vilmund. The annotator has added the name of Borgny's father, 
but otherwise his material comes from the poem itself. Oddrun, 
sister of Atli and Brynhild, here appears as proficient in birth- 
runes (cf. Sigrdrifumol, 8). Regarding her love for Gunnar, 
Guthrun's brother, and husband of her sister, Brynhild, cf. 
Sigurthark'vitha en skamma, 57 and note. 

1. Olden tales: this may be merely a stock phrase, or it may 
really mean that the poet found his story in oral prose tradition. 
Morningland: the poem's geography is utterly obscure. "Morn- 
ingland" is apparently identical with "Hunland" (stanza 4), 
and yet Oddrun is herself sister of the king of the Huns. Vig- 
fusson tries to make "Mornaland" into "Morva land" and explain 
it as Moravia. Probably it means little more than a country lying 
vaguely in the East. With stanza 28 the confusion grows worse. 



(And in she went from the end of the hall;) 
From the weary steed the saddle she took; 
Hear now the speech that first she spake : 

"What news on earth, ....... 

Or what has happened in Hunland now?" 

A serving-maid spake : 
"Here Borgny lies in bitter pain, 
Thy friend, and, Oddrun, thy help would find." 

Oddrun spake: 
"Who worked this woe for the woman thus, 
Or why so sudden is Borgny sick ?" 

The serving-maid spake: 
"Vilmund is he, the heroes' friend, 
Who wrapped the woman in bedclothes warm, 
(For winters five, yet her father knew not)." 

Then no more they spake, methinks; 

She went at the knees of the woman to sit ; 

3. Line 3 (cf. Volundarkvitha, 17) or line 5 (cf. Thryms- 
kvii/ia, 2), both quoted from older poems, is probably spurious; 
the manuscript marks line 3 as the beginning of a new stanza. 

4. Line i in the original appears to have lost its second 
half. In line 2 the word rendered "has happened" is doubtful. 
The manuscript does not indicate the speaker of lines 3-4, and 
a few editors assign them to Borgny herself. 

5. The manuscript does not indicate the speakers. For the 
ivoman: conjectural; the manuscript has instead: "What warrior 
now hath worked this woe?" The manuscript indicates line 3 
as beginning a new stanza. Line 5, apparently modeled on line 
4 of stanza 13, is probably spurious. 

[ 471 ] 

Poetic Edda 

With magic Oddrun and mightily Oddrun 
Chanted for Borgny potent charms. 

7. At last were born a boy and girl, 
Son and daughter of Hogni's slayer; 
Then speech the woman so weak began, 
Nor said she aught ere this she spake : 

8. "So may the holy ones thee help, 
Frigg and Freyja and favoring gods, 

As thou hast saved me from sorrow now." 

Oddrun spake: 

9. "I came not hither to help thee thus 
Because thou ever my aid didst earn; 
I fulfilled the oath that of old I swore. 
That aid to all I should ever bring, 

(When they shared the wealth the warriors 


6. Charms: cf. Sigrdrifumol, 8. 

7. Hogni's slayer: obviously Vilmund, but unless he was the 
one of Atli's followers who actually cut out Hogni's heart (cf. 
Drap Niflunga), there is nothing else to connect him with Hogni's 
death. Sijmons emends the line to read "Born of the sister of 
Hogni's slayer." 

8. Regarding Frigg as a goddess of healing cf. Svipdagsmol, 
52, note. Regarding Freyja as the friend of lovers cf. Grimnis- 
mol, 14, note. A line is very possibly missing from this stanza. 

9. The manuscript does not name the speaker. In line 2 the 
word rendered "earn" is omitted in the manuscript, but nearly 
all editions have supplied it. Line 5 is clearly either interpolated 
or out of place. It may be all that is left of a stanza which 
stood between stanzas 15 and 16, or it may belong in stanza la. 



Borgny spake: 

10. "Wild art thou, Oddrun, and witless now, 
That so in hatred to me thou speakest ; 

I followed thee where thou didst fare, 
As we had been born of brothers twain." 

Oddrun spake: 

11. "I remember the evil one eve thou spakest, 
When a draught I gave to Gunnar then ; 
Thou didst say that never such a deed 

By maid was done save by me alone." 

12. Then the sorrowing woman sat her down 
To tell the grief of her troubles great. 

I0-20. In the manuscript the order is as follows: 12; 13; 14; 
15, 3-4; 10; 11; 16; 17; 18; 19, 1-2; IS, 1-2; 19, 3-4; 20. The 
changes made here, following several of the editions, are: (a) 
the transposition of stanzas 10-11, which are clearly dialogue, 
out of the body of the lament to a position just before it; (b) 
the transposition of lines 1-2 of stanza 15 to their present position 
from the middle of stanza 19. 

10. The manuscript does not name the speaker; cf. note on 
stanzas 10-20. 

11. The manuscript does not name the speaker; cf. note on 
stanzas 10-20. The word rendered "evil" in line 1 is a con- 
jectural addition. Apparently Borgny was present at Atli's court 
while the love affair between Oddrun and Gunnar was in 
progress, and criticised Oddrun for her part in it. A draught, 
etc.: apparently in reference to a secret meeting of the lovers. 

12. In the manuscript this stanza follows stanza 9; cf. note 
on stanzas 10-20. No gap is indicated, but something has pre- 
sumably been lost. Grundtvig supplies as a first line: "The maid 
her evil days remembered," and inserts as a second line 
line 5 of stanza 9. 


Poetic Edda 

13. "Happy I grew in the hero's hall 

As the warriors wished, and they loved me well; 

Glad I was of my father's gifts, 

For winters five, while my father lived. 

14. "These were the words the weary king, 
Ere he died, spake last of all: 

He bade me with red gold dowered to be, 
And to Grimhild's son in the South be wedded. 

15. "But Brynhild the helm he bade to wear, 
A wish-maid bright he said she should be ; 
For a nobler maid would never be born 
On earth, he said, if death should spare her. 

16. "At her weaving Brynhild sat in her bower, 
Lands and folk alike she had; 

13. The manuscript indicates line 3 as the beginning of a 
new stanza; many editions combine lines 1-2 with stanza iz and 
lines 3-4 with lines 1-2 of stanza 14. The hero: Buthli, father 
of Oddrun, Atli, and Brynhild. 

14. The manuscript indicates line 3, but not line i, as the 
beginning of a new stanza ; some editions combine lines 3-4 with 
lines 3-4 of stanza 15. Making Buthli plan the marriage of 
Oddrun and Gunnar may be a sheer invention of the poet, or 
may point to an otherwise lost version of the legend. 

15. Lines 1-2 have here been transposed from the middle of 
stanza 19; cf. note on stanzas 10-20. IVish-maid: a Valkyrie, 
so called because the Valkyries fullfilled Othin's wish in choosing 
the slain heroes for Valhall. The reference to Brynhild as a 
Valkyrie by no means fits with the version of the story used in 
stanzas 16-17, and the poet seems to have attempted to combine 
the two contradictory traditions; cf. Fafnismol, note on stanza 
44. In the manuscript stanzas 10- 11 follow line 4 of stanza 15. 



The earth and heaven high resounded 
When Fafnir's slayer the city saw. 

17. "Then battle was fought with the foreign swords, 
And the city was broken that Brynhild had ; 
Not long thereafter, but all too soon, 

Their evil wiles full well she knew. 

18. "Woeful for this her vengeance was, 
As so we learned to our sorrow all; 
In every land shall all men hear 

How herself at Sigurth's side she slew. 

19. "Love to Gunnar then I gave, 

To the breaker of rings, as Brynhild might; 

To Atli rings so red they offered. 

And mighty gifts to my brother would give. 

16. In stanzas 16-17 the underlying story seems to be the 
one used in Sigurtharkvitha en skamma (particularly stanzas 
32-39), and referred to in Guthrunarkvitha I, 24, wherein 
Gunnar and Sigurth lay siege to Atli's city (it here appears as 
Brynhild's) and are bought off only by Atli's giving Brynhild 
to Gunnar as wife, winning her consent thereto by falsely repre- 
senting to her that Gunnar is Sigurth. This version is, of course, 
utterly at variance with the one in which Sigurth wins Brynhild 
for Gunnar by riding through the ring of flames, and is probably 
more closely akin to the early German traditions. In the Nibelun- 
genlied Brynhild appears as a queen ruling over lands and 
peoples. Fafnir's slayer: Sigurth. 

17. Cf. note on preceding stanza. 

18. Cf. Sigurtharkvitha en skamma, stanzas 64-70. 

19. In the manuscript lines 1-2 of stanza 15 follow line 2, 
resulting in various conjectural combinations. The manuscript 
marks line 3 as beginning a new stanza. Rings, etc.: possibly, as 


Poetic Edda 

20. "Fifteen dwellings fain would he give 
For me, and the burden that Grani bore ; 
But Atli said he would never receive 
Marriage gold from Gjuki's son. 

21. "Yet could we not our love o'ercome, 
And my head I laid on the hero's shoulder; 
Many there were of kinsmen mine 

Who said that together us they had seen. 

22. "Atli said that never I 
Would evil plan, or ill deed do; 
But none may this of another think, 
Or surely speak, when love is shared. 

23. "Soon his men did Atli send. 

In the murky wood on me to spy; 

Thither they came where they should not come, 

Where beneath one cover close we lay. 

24. "To the warriors ruddy rings we offered, 
That nought to Atli e'er they should say ; 

Gering maintains, payment offered by Gunnar and Hogni for 
Brynhild's death, but more probably, as in stanza 20, Gunnar's 
proffered "marriage gold" for the hand of Oddrun. 

20. Grani's burden: the treasure won by Sigurth from Fafnir; 
cf. Fafnismol, concluding prose. The manuscript marks line 3 as 
beginning a new stanza, as also in stanzas 21 and 22. 

23. Murky wood: the forest which divided Atli's realm from 
that of the Gjukungs is in Atlakvitha, 3, called Myrkwood. 
This hardly accords with the extraordinary geography of stanzas 
28-29, or '""ith the journey described in Guthrunarkvitha II, 36. 



But swiftly home they hastened thence, 
And eager all to Atli told. 

25. "But close from Guthrun kept they hid 
What first of all she ought to have known. 

26. "Great was the clatter of gilded hoofs 
When Gjuki's sons through the gateway rode; 
The heart they hewed from Hogni then, 
And the other they cast in the serpents' cave. 

27. "The hero wise on his harp then smote, 

For help from me in his heart yet hoped 
The high-born king, might come to him. 

24. In the manuscript lines 3 and 4 stand in reversed order. 

25. No gap is indicated in the manuscript; some editors 
assume the loss not onlj' of two lines, but of an additional 
stanza. Evidently Guthrun has already become Atli's wife. 

26. If a stanza has been lost after stanza 25, it may well 
have told of Atli's treacherous invitation to the Gjukungs to 
visit him; cf. Drap Niflunga, which likewise tells of the slaying 
of Hogni and Gunnar {the other). 

27. In the manuscript these three lines follow line 2 of stanza 
28. No gap is indicated in the manuscript. In the Volsungasaga 
Guthrun gives her brother the harp, with which he puts the 
serpents to sleep. The episode is undoubtedly related to the 
famous thirtieth Aventiure of the Nibelungenlied, in which 
Volker plays the followers of Gunther to sleep before the final 


Poetic Edda 

28. "Alone was I gone to Geirmund then, 
The draught to mix and ready to make ; 
Sudden I heard from HIesey clear 

How in sorrow the strings of the harp resounded. 

29. "I bade the serving-maids ready to be, 
For I longed the hero's life to save ; 
Across the sound the boats we sailed, 
Till we saw the whole of Atli's home. 

30. "Then crawling the evil woman came, 
Atli's mother — may she ever rot! 

28. In the manuscript the three lines of stanza 27 follow line 
2, and line 3 is marked as beginning a new stanza. Geirmund: 
nothing further is known of him, but he seems to be an ally 
or retainer of Atli, or possibly his brother. HIesey: the poet's 
geography is here in very bad shape. HIesey is (or may be) 
the Danish island of Laso, in the Kattegat (cf. Harbarthsljoth, 
37 and note), and thither he has suddenly transported not only 
Gunnar's death-place but Atli's whole dwelling (cf. stanza 29), 
despite his previous references to the ride to Hunland (stanzas 
3-4) and the "murky wood" (stanza 23). Geirmund's home, 
where Oddrun has gone, is separated from HIesey and Atli's 
dwelling by a sound (stanza 29). However, geographical accu- 
racy is seldom to be looked for in heroic epic poetry. 

29. Many editions combine this stanza with lines 3-4 of stanza 
28. The sound: cf. note on stanza 28. 

30. The manuscript marks line 3 as beginning a new stanza. 
Atli's mother: the Volsungasaga does not follow this version; 
Gunnar puts all the serpents but one to sleep with his harp 
playing, "but a mighty and evil adder crawled to him and drove 
his fangs into him till they reached his heart, and so he died." 
It is possible that "Atli" is a scribal error for a word meaning 
"of serpents." 



And hard she bit to Gunnar's heart, 
So I could not help the hero brave. 

31. "Oft have I wondered how^ after this, 
Serpents'-bed goddess! I still might live. 
For M^ell I loved the vi^arrior brave, 
The giver of sw^ords, as my very self. 

32. "Thou didst see and listen, the w^hile I said 
The mighty grief that was mine and theirs; 
Each man lives as his longing wills, — 
Oddrun's lament is ended now." 

31. Serpents'-bed goddess: woman (i, e., Borgny) ; "goddess 
of gold" was a frequent term for a woman, and gold was often 
called the "serpents' bed" (cf. Guthrunarkvitha I, 24 and note). 

32. Some editions make line 4 a statement of the poet's, and 
not part of Oddrun's speech. 




The Greenland Lay of Atli 

Introductory Note 

There are two Atli poems in the Codex Regius, the Ailakvitha 
{Lay of Atli) and the Atlamol (Ballad of Atli). The poems 
are not preserved or quoted in any other old manuscript, but 
they were extensively used by the compilers of the Vohung- 
asaga. In the manuscript superscription to each of these poems 
appears the word "Greenland," which has given rise to a large 
amount of argument. The scribe was by no means infallible, 
and in this case his statement proves no more than that in the 
period round 1300 there was a tradition that these two poems 
originated in the Greenland settlement. 

The two Atli poems deal with substantially the same 
material: the visit of the sons of Gjuki to Atli's court, their 
deaths, and the subsequent revenge of their sister, Guthrun, 
Atli's wife, on her husband. The shorter of the two, the Atla- 
hvitha, tells the story with little elaboration; the Atlamol, with 
about the same narrative basis, adds many details, some of them 
apparently of the poet's invention, and with a romantic, not to 
say sentimental, quality quite lacking in the Atlakvitha. Both 
poems are sharply distinguished from the rest of the collection 
by their metrical form, which is the Malahattr (used irregularly 
also in the Harbarthsljoth), employed consistently and smoothly 
in the Atlamol, and with a considerable mixture of what appear 
to be Fornyrthislag lines (cf. Introduction) in the Atlakvitha. 

It is altogether probable that both poems belong to the elev- 
enth century, the shorter Atlakvitha being generally dated from 
the first quarter thereof, and the longer Atlamol some fifty years 
or more later. In each case the poet was apparently a Christian ; 
in the Atlamol (stanza 82) Guthrun expresses her readiness to 
die and "go into another light," and in the Atlakvitha there is 
frequent use of mythological names (e.g., Valhall, Hlithskjolf) 
with an evident lack of understanding of their relation to the 
older gods. These facts fit the theory of a Greenland origin ex- 
ceedingly well, for the Greenland settlement grew rapidly after 
the first explorations of Eirik the Red, which were in 982-985, and 
its most flourishing period was in the eleventh century. The 
internal evidence, particularly in the case of the Atlamol, points 



likewise to an origin remote from Iceland, Norway, and the 
"Western Isles"; and the two poems are sufficiently alike so that, 
despite the efforts of Finnur Jonsson and others to separate them, 
assigning one to Greenland and the other to Norway or else- 
where, it seems probable that the manuscript statement is correct 
in both instances, and that the two Atli poems did actually 
originate in Greenland. An interesting account of this Greenland 
settlement is given in William Hovgaard's Voyages of the Norse- 
men to America, published by the American-Scandinavian Foun- 
dation in 1914, and an extraordinarily vivid picture of the suf- 
ferings of the early settlers appears in Maurice Hewlett's 
Thorgils, taken from the Floamannasaga. 

From the standpoint of narrative material there is little that 
is distinctively Norse in either the Atlakvitha or the Atlamol. 
The story is the one outlined in the prose Drap Niflunga (largely 
based on these two poems), representing almost exclusively the 
southern blending of the Attila and Burgundian legends (cf. 
introductory note to Gripisspo). In the Atlakvitha, indeed, the 
word "Burgundians" is actually used. Brynhild is not mentioned 
in either poem; Sigurth's name appears but once, in the Atlamol. 
Thus the material goes directly back to its South-Germanic 
origins, with little of the Northern making-over which resulted 
in such extensive changes in most parts of the Sigurth story. The 
general atmosphere, on the other hand, particularly in the 
Atlamol, is essentially Norse. 

As has been said, the Atlakvitha is metrically in a chaotic 
state, the normal Malahattr lines being frequently interspersed 
with lines and even stanzas which apparently are of the older 
Fornyrthislag type. How much of this confusion is due to faulty 
transmission is uncertain, but it has been suggested that the com- 
poser of the Atlakvitha made over in Malahattr an older Atli 
poem in Fornyrthislag, and this suggestion has much to recom- 
mend it. That he worked on the basis of an older poem is, 
indeed, almost certain, for in oral prose tradition a far larger 
number of distinctively Norse traits would unquestionably have 
crept in than are found in the material of the Atlakvitha. As for 
the Atlamol, here again the poet seems to have used an older 
poem as his basis, possibly the Atlakvitha itself, although in that 
case he must have had other material as well, for there are 
frequent divergences in such matters as proper names. 

The translation of the Atlakvitha is rendered peculiarly diffi- 


Poetic Edda 

cult by the irregularity of the metre, by the evident faultiness of 
the transmission, and above all by the exceptionally large number 
of words found nowhere else in Old Norse, involving much 
guesswork as to their meanings. The notes do not attempt to 
indicate all the varying suggestions made by editors and com- 
mentators as to the reconstruction of defective stanzas and the 
probable meanings of obscure passages; in cases which are 
purely or largely guesswork the notes merely point out the uncer- 
tainty without cataloguing the proposed solutions. 

Guthrun, Gjuki's daughter, avenged her brothers, as 
has become well known. She slew first Atli's sons, and 
thereafter she slew Atli, and burned the hall with his 
whole company. Concerning this was the following 
poem made: 

I. Atli sent of old to Gunnar 

A keen-witted rider, Knef roth did men call him ; 

To Gjuki's home came he and to Gunnar's dwell- 

With benches round the hearth, and to the beer 
so sweet. 

Prose. On the marriage of Guthrun to Atli at the instigation 
of her brothers, Gunnar and Hogni, and on the slaying of Atli 
and his two sons, Erp and Eitll, cf. Drap Niflunga and note. 

I. Line i apparently is in Fornyrthislag. Knef roth (the name 
is spelt in various ways, and its meaning is uncertain) : in the 
Atlamol (stanza 4) there are two messengers, one named Vingi 
and the other unnamed ; the annotator combines the two versions 
in the Drap Niflunga. Benches, etc.: the adjective rendered 
"round the hearth," which etymologically it ought to mean, is 
made obscure by its application to "helmets" in stanzas 3 and 17. 



2. Then the followers, hiding their falseness, all 


Their wine in the war-hall, of the Huns* wrath 

And Knefroth spake loudly, his words were 

The hero from the south, on the high bench sit- 

3. "Now Atli has sent me his errand to ride. 

On my bit-champing steed through Myrkwood 

the secret, 
To bid you, Gunnar, to his benches to come, 
With helms round the hearth, and Atli's home 


4. "Shields shall ye choose there, and shafts made 

of ash-wood. 
Gold-adorned helmets, and slaves out of Hun- 

2. Falseness: i.e., Gunnar's followers concealed their fear 
and hatred of the Huns at the feast; but the word may mean 
"fear of treachery." War-hall: the word used is "Valhall," the 
name of Othin's hall of slain warriors. 

3. Myrkivood the secret (the adjective is literally "unknown") : 
the forest which divided Atli's realm from that of the Gjukungs; 
cf. Oddrunargratr, 23 and note. Around the hearth: the adjective 
is the same one which is applied to "benches" in stanza i (cf. 
note) ; it may be an error here, or it may possibly have the force 
of "of your followers," i.e., Gunnar is to arm Ihe men of his 
household (those who are round his hearth) for the journey. 

4. Slaves, etc.: some editions have "swords in plenty." Scar- 
let: the word apparently means "slaughter-red," "blood-red," but 
it may mean something entirely different. 


Poetic Edda 

Silver-gilt saddle-cloths, shirts of bright scarlet, 
With lances and spears too, and bit-champing 

5. "The field shall be given you of wide Gnita- 

With loud-ringing lances, and stems gold-o'er- 

Treasures full huge, and the home of Danp, 
And the mighty forest that Myrkwood is called." 

6. His head turned Gunnar, and to Hogni he said : 
"What thy counsel, young hero, when such things 

we hear? 
No gold do I know on Gnitaheith lying 
So fair that other its equal we have not. 

7. "We have seven halls, each of swords is full. 

5. Gnitaheith: here the dragon Fafnir had his lair (cf. 
Gripisspo, 11). Sigurth doubtless owned it after Fafnir's death, 
and the Gjukungs after they had killed Sigurth. Possibly they 
had given it to Atli in recompense for the death of his sister, 
Brynhild, and he now offered to restore it to them, or — as seems 
more likely — the poet was not very clear about its ownership 
himself. Stems: i.e., the gilded stems of ships, carved like dragons, 
— an evident northern touch, if the word is correct, which is by 
no means certain. Danp: this name was early applied to a myth- 
ical Danish king (cf. Rigsthula, 49 and note), but it may have 
been fabricated by error out of the word "Danparstajjir" (the 
phrase here used is "staj^i Danpar"), used in the Hervararsaga 
of a field of battle between the Goths and the Huns, and quite 
possibly referring to the region of the Dnieper. The name seems 
to have clung *o the Atli tradition long after it had lost all defi- 
nite significance. Myrkwood: cf. note on stanza 3. 



(And all of gold is the hilt of each;) 
My steed is the swiftest, my sword is sharpest, 
My bows adorn benches, my byrnies are golden, 
My helm is the brightest that came from Kjar's 

(Mine own is better than all the Huns' treas- 

Hogni spake : 

8. "What seeks she to say, that she sends us a ring, 
Woven with a wolf's hair? methinks it gives 

warning ; 
In the red ring a hair of the heath-dweller 

found I, 
Wolf-like shall our road be if we ride on this 


9. Not eager were his comrades, nor the men of his 


7. The stanza is clearly in bad shape; the manuscript indi- 
cates line 5 as beginning a new stanza. In line 5 the manuscript 
has "and shield" after "helm." Kjar: Gering ingeniously identifies 
this Kjar with Kjar the father of Olrun, mentioned in the 
Volundarkvitha, introductory prose and stanza 2, on the basis 
of a genealogy in the Flateyjarbok, in which Authi, the grand- 
father of Kjar (by no means certainly the same man) and 
Buthli, father of Atli, are mentioned as making a raiding voyage 
together. This identification, however, rests on slight evidence. 

8. The manuscript does not name the speaker. One editor 
gives the first sentence to Gunnar. She, etc.: Guthrun, seeking to 
warn her brothers of Atli's treachery, sends them a ring with a 
wolf's hair as a sign of danger; in the Atlamol (stanza 4) she 
sends a message written in runes; cf. Drap Niflunga. Heath- 
diveller: wolf. 


Poetic Edda 

The wise nor the wary, nor the warriors bold. 
But Gunnar spake forth as befitted a king, 
Noble in the beer-hall, and bitter his scorn : 

10. "Stand forth now, Fjornir! and hither on the 
The beakers all golden shalt thou bring to the 

II. "The wolves then shall rule the wealth of the 
Wolves aged and grey-hued, if Gunnar is lost, 
And black-coated bears with rending teeth bite, 
And make glad the dogs, if Gunnar returns not." 

9. In line i the manuscript has "His comrades did not urge 
Gunnar," but the name, involving a metrical error, seems to 
have been inserted through a scribal blunder. 

10. The manuscript indicates no lacuna, but probably two 
lines have dropped out, for the Volsungasaga paraphrase runs: 
"Give us to drink in great cups, for it may well be that this 
shall be our last feast." Fjornir: Gunnar's cup-bearer. 

11. Bugge thinks this stanza is spoken by Gunnar's terrified 
followers; Grundtvig assigns it to Hogni. Apparently, however, 
Gunnar means that if he and his men are not valiant enough to 
make the journey and return safely, it matters little what may 
happen to them. Niflungs: regarding the application of this name 
to Gunnar's Burgundians cf. Brot, 17 and note. Bears: these 
"black" bears have been used as arguments against the Green- 
land origin of the poem. And make glad the dogs: i.e., by giving 
them corpses to eat, but the phrase in the original is more than 



12. A following gallant fared forth with the ruler, 
Yet they wept as their home with the hero they 

And the little heir of Hogni called loudly : 
"Go safe now, ye wise ones, wherever ye will!" 

13. Then let the bold heroes their bit-champing 

On the mountains gallop, and through Myrk- 

wood the secret; 
All Hunland was shaken where the hard-souled 

ones rode, 
On the whip-fearers fared they through fields 

that were green. 

14. Then they saw Atli's halls, and his watch-towers 


12. Some editions in line 2 read "home of the Niflungs" in- 
stead of "their home," and others "home of the Huns," the manu- 
script reading being "home of the men." Heir: the Atlamol 
(stanza 28) names two sons of Hogni, Snaevar and Solar, both 
of whom make the journey with their father and are killed. The 
Volsungasaga, combining the two versions, says that Snasvar and 
Solar went with their father, and implies that it was a third and 
still younger son who said: "Farewell, and have a good time" 
(thus literally). 

13. Myrkivood: cf. stanza 3 and note; the journey is here 
made by land, whereas in the Atlamol it is made partly by boat; 
cf. Atlamol, 34 and note. JV hip-fearers: horses, but there is some 
uncertainty as to the word. 

14. In line 1 the manuscript has "land" instead of "halls," 
which involves a metrical error. Watch-toivers: the word used is 
identical with the name of Othin's watch-tower, Hlithskjolf (cf. 
Grimnismol, introductory prose). Buthli: the manuscript has 
"Bikki," which has. led some editors to transfer this stanza to 


Poetic Edda 

On the walls so lofty stood the warriors of 


The hall of the southrons with seats was sur- 

With targets bound and shields full bright. 

15. Mid weapons and lances did Atli his wine 

In the war-hall drink, without were his watch- 
For Gunnar they waited, if forth he should go, 
With their ringing spears they would fight with 
the ruler. 

16. This their sister saw, as soon as her brothers 
Had entered the hall, — little ale had she drunk: 
"Betrayed art thou, Gunnar! what guard hast 

thou, hero, 
'Gainst the plots of the Huns ? from the hall flee 
swiftly ! 

17. "Brother, 'twere far better to have come in 

With thy household helmed, to see Atli's home, 

the Hamthesmol, placing it between stanzas 16 and 17; it seems 
more likely, however, that "Bikki" was a scribal error for 
"Buthli." Regarding Bikki of. Sigurtharkvitha en skamma, 63 and 
note. Line 4 is apparently in Fornyrthislag. 

15. Line 1 in the manuscript is apparently incorrectly copied, 
and some editions omit "Mid weapons and lances" and assume a 
gap in either line i or line 3. 

17. This may be the remains of two stanzas; the manuscript 
marks line 5 as beginning a new stanza. Editorial conjectures are 



And to sit in the saddle all day 'neath the sun, 
(That the sword-norns might weep for the 

death-pale warriors, 
And the Hunnish shield-maids might shun not 

the sword,) 
And send Atli himself to the den of the snakes; 
( Now the den of the snakes for thee is destined. ) " 

Gunnar spake: 

1 8. 

"Too late is it, sister, to summon the Niflungs, 
Long is it to come to the throng of our comrades. 
The heroes gallant, from the hills of the Rhine." 

19. Then Gunnar they seized, and they set him in 

numerous and varied. Household: the phrase is the same "helms 
round the hearth" commented on in stanza 3. Some editions insert 
a conjectural line after line 3. Sivord-norns, etc.: the line is ex- 
ceedingly obscure, and the phrase rendered "sword-norns" may 
mean "corpse-norns." Apparently it refers to the warrior-women 
of the Huns, the "shield-maids" of line 5 and of stanza 45. 
Roman writers refer to the warrior-women among the early 
Germanic tribes, and the tradition, closely allied to that of the 
Valkyries, attached itself readily to the ferocious Huns. Den of 
snakes: concerning the manner of Gunnar's death cf. Drap 

18. The manuscript indicates no lacuna and does not name 
the speaker; perhaps a line similar to line 1 of stanza 24 (or 26) 
should be inserted here. Rhine: Gunnar's Burgundian home is 
here clearly localized. After this stanza it is probable that a 
passage describing the battle has been lost. 

19. These two lines, apparently the remains of a full stanza, 


Poetic Edda 

The Burgundians' king, and fast they bound him. 

20. Hogni slew seven with sword so keen, 
And an eighth he flung in the fire hot ; 
A hero should fight with his foemen thus, 
As Hogni strove in Gunnar's behalf. 


The leader they asked if his life he fain 
With gold would buy, the king of the Goths. 

Gunnar spake: 
22. "First the heart of Hogni shall ye lay in my 

may belong after stanza 20. Burgundians' king: the phrase may 
mean "Burgundians' men," i.e., they bound all the Burgundians 
who were left alive after the battle. This is the only place in 
the poems in which the name "Burgundian" appears; that the 
poet had no very clear conception of its meaning is indicated by 
the fact that in stanza 21 he calls Gunnar "king of the Goths." 

20. Apparently a Fornyrthislag stanza, though most editions 
have attempted to expand the lines into Malahattr. The exploits 
of Hogni (Hagene), with the names of many of his victims, are 
told in the Nibelungenlied. The fire: in the Nibelungenlied 
Kriemhild has the hall set on fire, and the Burgundians fight 
amid the flames. Line 4 is clearly defective, and some editors 
regard the name "Gunnar" as all that is left of the first two 
lines of stanza 21. 

21. Again apparently the remains of a Fornyrthislag stanza. 
Editors have attempted various combinations of the lines. Gold: 
presumably Sigurth's treasure. 

22. The manuscript does not indicate the speaker; perhaps 
a first line similar to line i of stanza 24 should appear here. 
Some editors, however, assume that a line is missing after line 3. 




All bloody from the breast of the bold one cut 
With keen-biting sword, from the son of the 


They cut out the heart from the breast of Hjalli, 
On a platter they bore it, and brought it to 

24. Then Gunnar spake forth, the lord of the folk: 
"Here have I the heart of HjaUi the craven, 
Unlike to the heart of Hogni the valiant, 

For it trembles still as it stands on the platter; 
Twice more did it tremble in the breast of the 

25. Then Hogni laughed when they cut out the heart 
Of the living helm-hammerer; tears he had not. 

On a platter they bore it, and brought it to 

Gunnar demands proof that Hogni is dead because, as stanza 28 
shows, he is unwilling to die himself until he is assured that the 
secret of the treasure will perish with him. He did not, of course, 
intend that the heart should be cut from the living Hogni. 

23. Most editions assume a gap (lines 1-2, 2-3 or 3-4). Hjalli: 
Atli's cook, killed to deceive Gunnar, as Atli hoped to wring the 
secret of the hoard from Hogni if Gunnar remained silent. In 
the Atlamol (stanzas 59-60) Atli's men prepare to kill Hjalli, 
but he is spared at Hogni's intercession. 

25. Helm-hammerer (literally "helmet-smith") : warrior, i.e., 
Hogni. No gap indicated in the manuscript. 


Poetic Edda 

26. Then Gunnar spake forth, the spear of the 

"Here have I the heart of Hogni the valiant, 
Unlike to the heart of Hjalli the craven. 
Little it trembles as it lies on the platter. 
Still less did it tremble when it lay in his breast. 

27. "So distant, Atli, from all men's eyes, 

Shalt thou be as thou from the gold. 

28. "To no one save me is the secret known 

Of the Niflungs' hoard, now Hogni is dead ; 
Of old there were two, while we twain were 

Now is none but I, for I only am living. 

29. "The swift Rhine shall hold the strife-gold of 

That once was the gods', the wealth of the 


26. Line 1 may belong elsewhere (stanzas 18 or 22). 

27. Apparently the remains of two Fornyrthislag lines; the 
manuscript combines them with lines 1-2 of stanza 28. Gunnar 
foretells Atli's speedy death. 

28. Apparently in Fornyrthislag. The manuscript indicates 
line 3 as the beginning of a stanza, and many editions combine 
lines 3-4 with stanza 29. This stanza explains Gunnar's demand 
for Hogni's heart in stanza 22. 

29. The manuscript marks line 3, and not line i, as the begin- 
ning of a stanza. Rhine, etc.: the stanza shows the blending of 



In the depths of the waters the death-rings shall 

And not shine on the hands of the Hunnish men." 

Atli spake: 
30. "Ye shall bring the wagon, for now is he bound." 

31. On the long-maned Glaum rode Atli the great, 

About him were warriors 

But Guthrun, akin to the gods of slaughter, 
Yielded not to her tears in the hall of tumult. 

three different traditions with regard to the treasure: the German 
tradition of the gold of the Rhine (cf. Volundarkvitha, 16, and 
Sigurtharkvitha en skamma, 16), the tradition, likewise German, 
of the hoard of the Nibelungen (Niflungs), early blended with 
the first one, and finally the northern tradition of the theft of 
Andvari's treasure by Othin, Honir, and Loki (cf. Reginsmol, 

30. Apparently all that is left of a full stanza. The manu- 
script does not name Atli as the speaker, and Grundtvig inserts: 
"Then Atli called, the king of the Huns," as a first line. Some 
editors combine this line with the two lines of stanza 33, Wagon: 
in Brot, 16, Gunnar is led to his death in the serpents' den on 
horseback, not in a wagon. 

31. The stanza in the original is hopelessly confused. Glaum: 
this horse of Atli's is mentioned by name elsewhere. Long-maned: 
uncertain. The manuscript indicates no gap, but something has 
evidently been lost. Gods of slaughter: perhaps the phrase, 
usually applied to Othin and the other gods, is here used simply 
to mean "heroes," i.e., Atli, Gunnar, and Hogni. Line 4 suggests 
Guthrun's tearlessness after Sigurth's death (cf. Guthrunarkvitha 

n. II). 


Poetic Edda 

Guthrun spake: 

32. "It shall go with thee, Atli, as with Gunnar thou 


The oaths ofttimes sworn, and of old made firm. 

By the sun in the south, by Sigtyr's mountain, 

By the horse of the rest-bed, and the ring of Ull." 

33. Then the champer of bits drew the chieftain great. 
The gold-guarder, down to the place of death. 

34. By the warriors' host was the living hero 
Cast in the den where crawling about 
Within were serpents, but soon did Gunnar 
With his hand in wrath on the harp-strings 
smite ; 

32. The manuscript does not indicate the speaker. Sigtyr 
("Victory-God"): Othin ; what particular mountain (if any) is 
meant is unknown. Horse of the rest-bed: probably this means 
"bedpost," i.e., the support of the marriage-bed. Ull: the archer- 
god, cf. Grimnismol, 5 and note. Nothing is known of his ring. 

33. Apparently the remains of a Fornyrthislag stanza. Some 
editors combine the two lines with the line here indicated as 
stanza 30. Champer of bits: horse. The manuscript indicates no 


34. Six Fornyrthislag lines which editors have tried to recon- 
struct in all sorts of ways. The manuscript marks line 5 as the 
beginning of a new stanza. Regarding the serpents' den, Gunnar's 
harp-playing, and the manner of his death, cf. Drop Niflunga 
and Oddruftargratr, 27-30, and notes. In Atlamol, 62, Gunnar 
plays the harp with his feet, his hands being bound, and some 
editors change hand in line 4 to "foot." Lines 5-6 may be inter- 
polated, or, as Bugge maintains, lines 1-4 may have been 
expanded out of two lines. 



The strings resounded, — so shall a hero, 
A ring-breaker, gold from his enemies guard. 

35. Then Atli rode on his earth-treading steed, 
Seeking his home, from the slaughter-place; 
There was clatter of hoofs of the steeds in the 

And the clashing of arms as they came from the 

36. Out then came Guthrun to meeting with Atli, 
With a golden beaker as gift to the monarch : 
"Thou mayst eat now, chieftain, within thy 

Blithely with Guthrun young beasts fresh 

37. The wine-heavy ale-cups of Atli resounded. 
When there in the hall the Hunnish youths clam- 

And the warriors bearded, the brave ones, entered. 

35. The manuscript marks line 3 as beginning a new stanza. 
Two (possibly three) of the lines appear to be in Fornyrthislag. 
Field: so the manuscript, involving a metrical error; many 
editions have "wood." 

36. Young beasts: Guthrun means Atli's sons, Erp and Eitil, 
but of course he thinks she refers to newly slaughtered beasts; 
of. Guthrunarkvitha II, 41-45. 

37. Youths: a conjectural addition. T/ie braie ones is also 
conjectural, the manuscript having "each." No gap indicated in 
the manuscript; some editions insert as line 3 or line 4 a slightly 
altered version of line 2 of stanza 45. 


Poetic Edda 

38. Then in came the shining one, 

and drink she bore them; 

Unwilling and bitter brought she food to the 

Till in scorn to the white-faced Atli did she 
speak : 

39. "Thou giver of swords, of thy sons the hearts 
All heavy with blood in honey thou hast eaten; 
Thou shalt stomach, thou hero, the flesh of the 

To eat at thy feast, and to send to thy followers. 

40. "Thou shalt never call to thy knees again 
Erp or Eitil, when merry with ale; 
Thou shalt never see in their seats again 
The sharers of gold their lances shaping, 
(Clipping the manes or minding their steeds.)" 

41. There was clamor on the benches, and the cry 

of men, 

38. No gap indicated in the manuscript, but the two fragments 
cannot be fitted together as one line. The shining one: Guthrun. 

39. Giver of swords: generous prince, i.e., Atli. Honey: cf. 
Guthrunarkvitha II, 42. To send to thy folloivers: literally, "to 
send from thy high seat." 

40. Apparently a Fornyrthislag stanza. Merry iviih ale: pre- 
sumably this refers to Atli, but the manuscript reading makes it 
apply to the two boys. Sharers of gold: princes. Line 5 is either 
interpolated or all that is left of a separate stanza. 

41. The text of the whole stanza has required a considerable 
amount of emendation. Lines 3-5 may have been expanded out of 
two lines, or line 5 may be an interpolation, possibly from stanza 



The clashing of weapons, and weeping of the 

Save for Guthrun only, she wept not ever 
For her bear-fierce brothers, or the boys so dear, 
So young and so unhappy, whom with Atli she 


42. Gold did she scatter, the swan-white one, 

And rings of red gold to the followers gave she ; 
The fate she let grow, and the shining wealth go. 
Nor spared she the treasure of the temple itself. 

43. Unwise then was Atli, he had drunk to wildness. 
No weapon did he have, and of Guthrun bewared 

Oft their play was better when both in gladness 
Each other embraced among princes all. 

44. With her sword she gave blood for the bed to 


12 of the Guthrunarhvot. Weapons: the word literally means 
"good-weaving," and may refer to silken garments, but this 
hardly fits the noun here rendered "clashing." JVept not: cf, 
stanza 31 and note. 

42. Line i appears to be in Fornyrthislag. Guthrun distributes 
Atli's treasures among his followers apparently to prevent their 
wrath at the slaying of Erp and Eitil from turning against her ; 
Atli, as stanza 43 shows, is too drunk to realize or prevent what 
she is doing. 

43. The second half of line 4 is apparently an error, but none 
of the editorial suggestions have improved it. 

44. Guthrun allows the dogs and the house-thralls, who had 
no part in Gunnar's death, to escape before she burns the dwell- 


Poetic Edda 

With her death-dealing hand, and the hounds she 

The thralls she awakened, and a firebrand threw 
In the door of the hall ; so vengeance she had. 

45. To the flames she gave all who yet were within, 
And from Myrkheim had come from the murder 

of Gunnar; 
The timbers old fell, the temple was in flames. 
The dwelling of the Buthlungs, and the shield- 
maids burned. 
They were slain in the house, in the hot flames 
they sank. 

46. Now the tale is all told, nor in later time 
Will a woman in byrnie avenge so her brothers ; 
The fair one to three of the kings of the folk 
Brought the doom of death ere herself she died. 

Still more is told in the Greenland ballad of AtH. 

ing with all who are left therein. In Atlamol, stanzas 83-84, Atli 
is slain by a son of Hogni (Hniflung?) with Guthrun's help. 

45. Some editions transfer line 2 to stanza 37; others reject 
line 3 as interpolated. Myrkheim ("Dark-Home"): probably 
identical with Myrkwood; cf. stanza 3. Temple: probably both 
here and in stanza 42 the word means little more than the place 
where Atli's treasures were kept; the poet was by no means 
literal in his use of terms connected with the heathen religion, 
Buthlungs: sons of Buthli, i.e., Atli and his family. Shield-maids: 
cf. stanza 17 and note. 

46. The entire stanza is very likely a later addition. Three 
kings: Atli and his two sons, Erp and Eitil. 



The Greenland Ballad of Atli 

Introductory Note 

Many of the chief facts regarding the Atlamol, which follows 
the Atlakvitha in the Codex Regius, are outlined in the intro- 
ductory note to the earlier Atli lay. That the superscription in 
the manuscript is correct, and that the poem was actually com- 
posed in Greenland, is generally accepted; the specific reference 
to polar bears (stanza 17), and the general color of the entire 
poem make this origin exceedingly likely. Most critics, again, 
agree in dating the poem nearer iioo than 1050. As to its state 
of preservation there is some dispute, but, barring one or two 
possible gaps of some importance, and the usual number of 
passages in which the interpolation or omission of one or two 
lines may be suspected, the Atlamol has clearly come down to us 
in fairly good shape. 

Throughout the poem the epic quality of the story itself is 
overshadowed by the romantically sentimental tendencies of the 
poet, and by his desire to adapt the narrative to the understand- 
ing of his fellow-Greenlanders. The substance of the poem is 
the same as that of the Atlakvitha; it tells of Atli's message to 
the sons of Gjuki, their journey to Atli's home, the slaying of 
Hogni and Gunnar, Guthrun's bitterness over the death of her 
brothers, and her bloody revenge on Atli. Thus in its bare out- 
line the Atlamol represents simply the Prankish blending of the 
legends of the slaughter of the Burgundians and the death of 
Attila (cf. Gripisspo, introductory note). But here the resem- 
blance ends. The poet has added characters, apparently of his 
own creation, for the sake of episodes which would appeal to 
both the men and the women of the Greenland settlement. Sea 
voyages take the place of journeys by land; Atli is reproached, 
not for cowardice in battle, but for weakness at the Thing or 
great council. The additions made by the poet are responsible 
for the Atlamol's being the longest of all the heroic poems in 
the Eddie collection, and they give it a kind of emotional vivid- 
ness, but it has little of the compressed intensity of the older 
poems. Its greatest interest lies in its demonstration of the manner 
in which a story brought to the North from the South Germanic 
lands could be adapted to the understanding and tastes of its 

[ 499 ] 

Poetic Edda 

eleventh century hearers without any material change of the 
basic narrative. 

In what form or forms the story of the Gjukungs and Atli 
reached the Greenland poet cannot be determined, but it seems 
likely that he was familiar with older poems on the subject, and 
possibly with the Atlakvitha itself. That the details which are 
peculiar to the Atlamol, such as the figures of Kostbera and 
Glaumvor, existed in earlier tradition seems doubtful, but the 
son of Hogni, who aids Guthrun in the slaying of Atli, appears, 
though under another name, in other late versions of the story, 
and it is impossible to say just how much the poet relied on his 
own imagination and how far he found suggestions and hints 
in the prose or verse stories of Atli with which he was familiar. 

The poem is in Malahattr (cf. Introduction) throughout, the 
verse being far more regular than in the Atlakvitha. The com- 
pilers of the Volsungasaga evidently knew it in very much the 
form in which we now have it, for in the main it is paraphrased 
with great fidelity. 

1. There are many who know how of old did men 
In counsel gather; little good did they get; 

In secret they plotted, it was sore for them later, 
And for Gjuki's sons, whose trust they deceived. 

2. Fate grew for the princes, to death they were 

given ; 
111 counsel was Atli's, though keenness he had ; 

1. Men: Atli and his advisers, with whom he planned the 
death of the sons of Gjuki, Gunnar and Hogni. The poet's ref- 
erence to the story as well known explains the abruptness of 
his introduction, without the mention of Atli's name, and his 
reference to Guthrun in stanza 3 simply as "the woman" 
("husfreyja," goddess of the house). 

2. Princes: Atli, Gunnar, and Hogni. Buliuark: Atli's slaying 



He felled his staunch bulwark, his own sorrow 

Soon a message he sent that his kinsmen should 

seek him. 

3. Wise was the woman, she fain would use wisdom, 
She saw well what meant all they said in secret; 
From her heart it was hid how help she might 

The sea they should sail, while herself she should 
go not. 

4. Runes did she fashion, but false Vingi made them, 
The speeder of hatred, ere to give them he sought ; 
Then soon fared the warriors whom Atli had 

And to Limafjord came, to the home of the kings. 

5. They were kindly with ale, and fires they kindled. 

of his wife's brothers, who were ready to support and defend 
him in his greatness, was the cause of his own death. 

3. The ivoman: Guthrun, concerning whose marriage to Atli 
cf. Guthrunarkvitha II, The sea: a late and essentially Green- 
land variation of the geography of the Atli story. Even the 
Atlakmtha, perhaps half a century earlier, separates Atli's land 
from that of the Gjukungs only by a forest. 

4. Runes: on the two versions of Guthrun's warning, and 
also on the name of the messenger (here Vingi), cf. Drap 
Niflunga and note. Limafjord: probably the Limfjord of north- 
ern Jutland, an important point in the wars of the eleventh 
century. The name was derived from "Eylimafjpr])," i.e., 
Eylimi's fjord. The poet may really have thought that the king- 
dom of the Burgundians was in Jutland, or he may simply have 
taken a well-known name for the sake of vividness. 


Poetic Edda 

They thought not of craft from the guests who 

had come ; 
The gifts did they take that the noble one gave 

On the pillars they hung them, no fear did they 


6. Forth did Kostbera, wife of Hogni, then come. 
Full kindly she was, and she welcomed them 

And glad too was Glaumvor, the wife of Gunnar, 
She knew well to care for the needs of the guests. 

7. Then Hogni they asked if more eager he were, 
Full clear was the guile, if on guard they had 

Then Gunnar made promise, if Hogni would go, 
And Hogni made answer as the other counseled. 

8. Then the famed ones brought mead, and fair was 

the feast. 

5. Some editors assume a gap after this stanza. 

6. Some editions place this stanza between stanzas 7 and 8. 
Kostbera ("The Giver of Food") and Glaumvor ("The 
Merry") : presumably creations of the poet. Both: Atli's two 
emissaries, Vingi and the one here unnamed (Knefroth ?). 

7. It is altogether probable that a stanza has been lost be- 
tween stanzas 6 and 7, in which Gunnar is first invited, and 
replies doubtfully. Made promise: many editions emend the text 
to read "promised the journey." The text of line 4 is obscure; 
the manuscript reads "nitti" ("refused"), which many editors 
have changed to "hlitti," which means exactly the opposite. 

8. No gap is indicated in the manuscript; Bugge adds (line 



Full many were the horns, till the men had drunk 
deep ; 

Then the mates made ready their beds for rest- 

9. Wise was Kostbera, and cunning in rune-craft, 

The letters would she read by the light of the fire ; 

But full quickly her tongue to her palate clave, 

So strange did they seem that their meaning she 

saw not. 

10. Full soon then his bed came Hogni to seek. 

The clear-souled one dreamed, and her dream 

she kept not, 
To the warrior the wise one spake when she 

wakened : 

II. "Thou wouldst go hence, Hogni, but heed my 
counsel, — 

3) : ''Then the warriors rose, and to slumber made ready." 
The manuscript indicates line 4 as beginning a new stanza, and 
some editions make a separate stanza out of lines 1-2. Others 
suggest the loss of a line after line 4. 

9. The manuscript does not indicate line i as the beginning 
of a stanza ; cf . note on stanza 8. 

10. Some editions combine this stanza with lines i-2 of stanza 
II. The manuscript indicates no gap. Grundtvig adds (line 2) : 
"But sleep to the woman so wise came little." 

11. Some editions make a separate stanza out of lines 1-2, or 
combine them with stanza 10, and combine lines 3-4 with stanza 


Poetic Edda 

Known to few are the runes, — and put off thy 

I have read now the runes that thy sister wrote, 
And this time the bright one did not bid thee to 


12. "Full much do I wonder, nor well can I see, 
Why the woman wise so wildly hath written; 
But to me it seems that the meaning beneath 
Is that both shall be slain if soon ye shall go. 
But one rune she missed, or else others have 

marred it." 

Hogni spake: 

13. "All women are fearful; not so do I feel, 

111 I seek not to find till I soon must avenge it; 
The king now will give us the glow-ruddy gold ; 
I never shall fear, though of dangers I know." 

Kostbera spake: 

14. "In danger ye fare, if forth ye go thither. 

12 (either lines 1-4 or 1-2). The manuscript marks line 3 as 
beginning a new stanza. 

12. Line 5 may be spurious, or else all that is left of a lost 
stanza. The manuscript marks it as the beginning of a new 
stanza, which, as the text stands, is clearly impossible. 

13. The manuscript, followed by some editions, has "Hogni 
spake" in the middle of line i. ///.' the manuscript and many edi- 
tions have "this." The king: Atli. 

14. The manuscript does not indicate the speakers in this dia* 
logue between Kostbera and Hogni (stanzas 14-19). Two linei 
tray possibly have been lost after line 2, filling out stanza 14 and 



No welcoming friendly this time shall ye find ; 
For I dreamed now, Hogni, and nought will I 

Full evil thy faring, if rightly I fear. 

15. "Thy bed-covering saw I in the flames burning, 
And the fire burst high through the walls of my 

Hogni spake: 
"Yon garment of linen lies little of worth, 
It will soon be burned, so thou sawest the bed- 

Kostbera spake: 

16. "A bear saw I enter, the pillars he broke. 

And he brandished his claws so that craven we 

were ; 
With his mouth seized he many, and nought was 

our might. 
And loud was the tumult, not little it was." 

making stanza 15 (then consisting of lines 3-4 of stanza 14 and 
lines 1-2 of stanza 15) the account of Kostbera's first dream. 
The manuscript marks line 3 as beginning a new stanza. In 
any case, the lost lines cannot materially have altered the 

15. Saiv I: the manuscript here, as also in stanzas 16, 18, 21, 
22, and 24, has "methought," which involves a metrical error. 
Some editors regard lines 3-4 as the remains of a four-line 
stanza. Regarding Kostbera's warning dreams, and Hogni's 
matter-of-fact interpretations of them, cf. Guthrunarkvitha II, 


16. The meaning of the first half of line 3 in the original is 


Poetic Edda 

Hogni spake: 

17. "Now a storm is brewing, and wild it grows 

A dream of an ice-bear means a gale from the 

Kostbera spake: 

18. "An eagle I saw flying from the end through the 

Our fate must be bad, for with blood he sprin- 
kled us; 

From the evil I fear that 'twas Atli's spirit." 

Hogni spake: 
19. "They will slaughter soon, and so blood do we 
Oft oxen it means when of eagles one dreams ; 

17. Two lines may have been lost after line 2, but the Vol- 
sungasaga paraphrase gives no clue. Ice-bear: polar bears, com- 
mon in Greenland, are very rarely found in Iceland, and never 
in Norway, a fact which substantiates the manuscript's reference 
to Greenland as the home of the poem. 

18. The manuscript indicates no gap, but most editors assume 
the loss of a line after line i or 2; Grundtvig adds, after line i: 
"Black were his feathers, with blood was he covered." Atli's 
spirit: the poet's folk-lore seems here a bit weak. Presumably he 
means such a female following-spirit ("fylgja") as appears in 
Helgakvitha Hjorvarthssonar, prose following stanza 34 (cf. 
note thereon), but the word he uses, "hamr" (masculine) means 
"skin," "shape." He may, however, imply that Atli had assumed 
the shape of an eagle for this occasion. 

19. The manuscript indicates line 4 as beginning a new 



True is Atli's heart, whatever thou dreamest." 
Then silent they were, and nought further they 

20. The high-born ones wakened, and like speech 
they had, 
Then did Glaumvor tell how in terror she 

Gunnar two roads they should go. 

Glaumvor spake: 
21. "A gallows saw I ready, thou didst go to thy 
Thy flesh serpents ate, and yet living I found 
thee ; 

The gods' doom descended; now say what it 

22. "A sword drawn bloody from thy garments I 
saw, — 

20. The manuscript indicates no gap, but none of the many 
attempted emendations have made sense out of the words as 
they stand. The proper location for the missing words is sheer 
guesswork. T<wo roads: probably the meaning is that their way 
(i.e., their success) would be doubtful. 

21. The manuscript does not indicate the speakers in this 
dialogue (stanzas 21-26). No gap is indicated after line 2. Most 
editors assume the loss of two lines or of a full stanza after 


Poetic Edda 

Such a dream is hard to a husband to tell, — 

A spear stood, methought, through thy body 

And at head and feet the wolves were howHng." 

Gunnar spake: 

23. "The hounds are running, loud their barking is 

Oft hounds' clamor follows the flying of spears." 

Glaumvor spake: 

24. "A river the length of the hall saw I run, 

Full swiftly it roared, o'er the benches it swept; 
O'er the feet did it break of ye brothers twain, 
The water would yield not; some meaning there 

25. "I dreamed that by night came dead women 

stanza 21 giving Gunnar's interpretation of Glaumvor's dream, 
but the Volsungasaga gives no clue, as it does not mention this 
first dream at all. Grundtvig suggests as Gunnar's answer: 
"Banners are gleaming, since of gallows didst dream, / And 
wealth it must mean that thou serpents didst watch." Gods' 
doom: an odd, and apparently mistaken, use of the phrase 
"ragna rok" (cf. Voluspo, introductory note). 

23. Perhaps two lines have been lost after line 2. Possibly 
the concluding phrase of line 2 should be "bloody spears," as in 
the Volsungasaga paraphrase. 

24. Again Gunnar's interpretation is missing, and most editors 
either assume a gap or construct two Malahattr lines out of the 
Volsungasaga prose paraphrase, which runs: "The grain shall 



Sad were their garments, and thee were they 

seeking ; 
They bade thee come swiftly forth to their 

And nothing, methinks, could the Norns avail 


Gunnar spake: 

26. "Too late is thy speaking, for so is it settled ; 
From the faring I turn not, the going is fixed, 
Though likely it is that our lives shall be short." 

27. Then bright shone the morning, the men all were 

They said, and yet each would the other hold 

back ; 
Five were the warriors, and their followers all 
But twice as many, — their minds knew not 


28. Snaevar and Solar, they were sons of Hogni, 
Orkning was he called who came with the others, 

flow, since thou hast dreamed of rivers, and when we go to the 
fields, often the chaff rises above our feet." 

25. The meaning of line 4 is uncertain, but apparently it 
refers to the guardian spirits or lesser Norns (of. Fafnismol, 
12-13 and notes). 

26. Possibly a line has been lost from this stanza. 

27. Five: Gunnar, Hogni, and the three mentioned in 
stanza 2S. 

28. Perhaps a line has been lost before line i ; Grundtvig 
supplies: "Gunnar and Hogni, the heirs twain of Gjuki." 
Snavar (the manuscript here has "Snevar"), Solar and Orkning 


Poetic Edda 

Blithe was the shield-tree, the brother of 
Kostbera ; 

The fair-decked ones followed, till the fjord di- 
vided them, 

Full hard did they plead, but the others would 
hear not. 

29. Then did Glaumvor speak forth, the wife of 

To Vingi she said that which wise to her seemed : 
"I know not if well thou requitest our welcome, 
Full ill was thy coming if evil shall follow." 

30. Then did Vingi swear, and full glib was his 


"May giants now take me if lies I have told ye, 

And the gallows if hostile thought did I have." 

31. Then did Bera speak forth, and fair was her 

appear only in this poem and in the prose narratives based on it. 
Lines 2-3 may have been expanded out of one line, or possibly 
line 3 is spurious. The manuscript indicates line 4 as beginning 
a new stanza, and many editions make a separate stanza out of 
lines 4-5, many of them assuming the loss of two lines. Shield- 
tree: warrior (Orkning), here identified as Kostbera's brother. 
Fair-decked ones: women, i.e., Glaumvor and Kostbera. Fjord: 
perhaps specifically the Limafjord mentioned in stanza 4. 

30. The manuscript indicates no gap, Grundtvig inserts (line 
2) : "The evil was clear when his words he uttered." 

31. Bera: Kostbera; the first element in compound feminine 



"May ye sail now happy, and victory have, 

To fare as I bid ye, may nought your vi^ay bar." 

32. Then Hognl made answer, — dear held he his 

kin, — 
"Take courage, ye wise ones, whatsoever may 

come ; 
Though many may speak, yet is evil oft mighty, 
And words avail little to lead one homeward." 

33. They tenderly looked till each turned on his way, 
Then with changing fate were their farings 


34. Full stoutly they rowed, and the keel clove 

Their backs strained at the oars, and their strength 
was fierce; 

proper names was not Infrequently omitted ; cf. Hild for Brynhild 
{Helreith Brynhildar, 6). The manuscript indicates no gap; 
Grundtvig inserts (line 2) : "And clear was her cry to her 
kinsmen dear." 

32. Hogni's method of cheering his wife and sister-in-law is 
somewhat unusual, for the meaning of lines 3-4 is that good 
wishes and blessings are of little use in warding off danger. 

33. Perhaps two lines have been lost after line 2; Grundtvig 
supplies: "Then weeping did Glaumvor go to her rest-bed, 
/ And sadly did Bera her spinning wheel seek." 

34. Keel, etc.: in the Nibelungenlied, and presumably in the 
older German tradition, Hagene breaks his oar steering the Burt 
gundians across the Danube (stanza 1564), and, after all have 
landed, splinters the boat (stanza 1581) in order that there may 
be no retreating. The poet here seems to have confused the story, 


Poetic Edda 

The oar-loops were burst, the thole-pins were 

Nor the ship made they fast ere from her they 


35. Not long was it after — the end must I tell — 
That the home they beheld that Buthli once had ; 
Loud the gates resounded when Hogni smote 

them ; 
Vingi spake then a word that were better unsaid : 

36. "Go ye far from the house, for false is its en- 

Soon shall I burn you, ye are swiftly smitten; 
I bade ye come fairly, but falseness was under. 
Now bide ye afar while your gallows I fashion." 

37. Then Hogni made answer, his heart yielded little. 

connecting the breaking of the ship's keel with the violence of 
the rowing, but echoing the older legend in the last line, wherein 
the ship is allowed to drift away after the travellers have landed. 
Oar-loops: the thongs by which the oars in a Norse boat were 
made fast to the thole-pins, the combination taking the place of 
the modern oarlock. 

35. The manuscript indicates line 4 as beginning a new 
stanza, and many editions combine it with stanza 36, some of 
them assuming the loss of a line from stanza 35. In the Vol- 
sungasaga paraphrase the second half of line 4 is made a part 
of Vingi's speech: "Better had ye left this undone." 

36. Cf. note on preceding stanza; the manuscript does not 
indicate line i as beginning a stanza. Line 3 may be spurious. 

37. In the Volsungasaga paraphrase the second half of line i 
and the first half of line 2 are included in Hogni's speech. 



And nought did he fear that his fate held in 
store : 

"Seek not to affright us, thou shalt seldom suc- 
ceed ; 

If thy words are more, then the worse grows thy 

38. Then Vingi did they smite, and they sent him to 

With their axes they clove him while the death- 
rattle came. 

39. Atli summoned his men, in mail-coats they 

All ready they came, and between was the court- 

40. Then came they to words, and full wrathful they 

38. Possibly two lines have been lost after line 2. 

39. It is probable that a considerable passage has teen lost 
between stanzas 39 and 40, for the Vol sun gas ag a paraphrase in- 
cludes a dialogue at this point. The manuscript indicates no gap, 
and most editions combine stanzas 39 and 40 as a single stanza. 
The prose passage, indicating the substance of what, if any- 
thing, is lost, runs as follows: " 'Be welcome among us, and give 
me that store of gold which is ours by right, the gold that Sigurth 
had, and that now belongs to Guthrun.' Gunnar said: 'Never 
shalt thou get that gold, and men of might shalt thou find here, 
ere we give up our lives, if it is battle thou dost offer us; in 
truth it seems that thou hast prepared this feast in kingly fashion, 


Poetic Edda 

"Long since did we plan how soon we might slay 

Hogni spake: 

41. "Little it matters if long ye have planned it; 
For unarmed do ye wait, and one have we felled, 
We smote him to hell, of your host was he once." 

42. Then wild was their anger when all heard his 

words ; 
Their fingers were swift on their bowstrings to 

Full sharply they shot, by their shields were they 


43. In the house came the word how the heroes with- 


and with little grudging toward eagle and wolf.' " The demand 
for the treasure likewise appears in the Nibelungenlied. 

40. These two lines, which most editions combine with stanza 
39, may be the first or last two of a four-line stanza. The Vol- 
sungasaga gives Atli's speech very much as it appears here. 

41. The manuscript does not indicate the speaker; Grundtvig 
adds as a first line: "Then Hogni laughed loud where the slain 
Vingi lay." Many editors assume the loss of a line somewhere 
in the stanza. Unarmed: Hogni does not see Atli's armed fol- 
lowers, who are on the other side of the courtyard (stanza 39). 
One: Vingi. 

42. Most editors assume the loss of one line, after either line 
1 or line 3. 

43. The manuscript reading of lines 1-2, involving a metrical 
error, is: "In the house came the word of the warring 
without, / Loud in front of the hall they heard a thrall 
shouting." Some editors assume a gap of two lines after line 



Fought in front of the hall; they heard a thrall 

tell it; 
Grim then was Guthrun, the grief when she 

With necklaces fair, and she flung them all from 

(The silver she hurled so the rings burst asunder. ) 

44. Then out did she go, she flung open the doors, 
All fearless she went, and the guests did she 

welcome ; 
To the Niflungs she went — her last greeting it 

was, — 
In her speech truth was clear, and much would 

she speak. 

45, "For your safety I sought that at home ye should 

stay ; 
None escapes his fate, so ye hither must fare." 
Full wisely she spake, if yet peace they might win. 

2, the missing passage giving the words of the thrall. The 
manuscript marks line 3 as the beginning of a stanza, and many 
editions make a separate stanza of lines 3-5, some of them 
assuming the loss of a line after line 3. With the stanza as here 
given, line 5 may well be spurious. 

44. Niflungs: regarding the application of this term to the 
Burgundians cf. Atlakvitha, 11, and Brot, 17, and notes. The 
manuscript here spells the name with an initial N, as elsewhere, 
but in stanza 83 the son of Hogni appears with the name 
"Hniflung." In consequence, some editors change the form in 
this stanza to "Hniflungs," while others omit the initial H in 
both cases. I have followed the manuscript, though admittedly 
its spelling is illogical. 


Poetic Edda 

But to nought would they hearken, and "No" 
said they all. 

46. Then the high-born one saw that hard was their 

In fierceness of heart she flung off her mantle ; 
Her naked sword grasped she her kin's lives to 

Not gentle her hands in the hewing of battle. 

47. Then the daughter of Gjuki two warriors smote 

Atli's brother she slew, and forth then they bore 

him ; 
( So fiercely she fought that his feet she clove off ; ) 
Another she smote so that never he stood, 
To hell did she send him, — her hands trembled 


46. The warlike deeds of Guthrun represent an odd trans- 
formation of the German tradition. Kriemhild, although she 
did no actual fighting in the Nibelungenlied, was famed from 
early times for her cruelty and fierceness of heart, and this seems 
to have inspired the poet of the Atlamol to make his Guthrun 
into a warrior outdoing Brynhild herself. Kriemhild's ferocity, 
of course, was directed against Gunther and especially Hagene, 
for whose slaying she rather than Etzel was responsible; here, 
on the other hand, Guthrun's is devoted to the defense of her 

47. Line 3 is very likely an interpolation. The manuscript 
marks line 4 as the beginning of a new stanza, and some editions 
make a separate stanza of lines 4-5. Atli's brother: doubtless a 
reminiscence of the early tradition represented in the Nibelung' 
enlied by the slaying of Etzel's brother, Bloedelin (the historical 
Bleda), by Dancwart. 



48. Full wide was the fame of the battle they fought, 
'Twas the greatest of deeds of the sons of Gjuki; 
Men say that the Niflungs, while themselves they 

were living, 
With their swords fought mightily, mail-coats 

they sundered, 
And helms did they hew, as their hearts were 


49. All the morning they fought until midday shone, 
(All the dusk as well and the dawning of day,) 
When the battle was ended, the field flowed with 

blood ; 
Ere they fell, eighteen of their foemen were slain. 
By the two sons of Bera and her brother as well. 

50. Then the warrior spake, and wild was his anger : 
"This is evil to see, and thy doing is all; 

48. Line 3 may well be spurious, for it implies that Gunnar 
and Hogni were killed in battle, whereas they were taken 
prisoners. Some editors, in an effort to smooth out the incon- 
sistency, change "themselves" in this line to "sound." Line 5 
has also been questioned as possibly interpolated. Niflungs: 
on the spelling of this name in the manuscript and the various 
editions cf. note on stanza 44.. 

49. Line 2 is probably an interpolation, and the original 
apparently lacks a word. There is some obscurity as to the exact 
meaning of lines 4-5. The tivo sons of Bera: Snasvar and Solar; 
her brother is Orkning; cf. stanza 28. 

50. The ivarrior: Atli. Thirty: perhaps an echo of the 
"thirty warriors" of Thjothrek (cf. Guthrunarkvitha III, 5). 
Subtracting the eighteen killed by Snaevar, Solar and Orkning 
(stanza 49), and Vingi, killed by the whole company (stanza 


Poetic Edda 

Once we were thirty, we thanes keen for battle, 
Now eleven are left, and great is our lack. 

51. "There were five of us brothers when Buthli we 

Now Hel has the half, and two smitten lie here ; 
A great kinship had I, — the truth may I hide 

not, — 
From a wife bringing slaughter small joy could I 


52. We lay seldom together since to me thou wast 

Now my kin all are gone, of my gold am I 

robbed ; 
Nay, and worst, thou didst send my sister to hell." 

38), we have eleven left, as Atli says, but this does not allow 
much for the exploits of Gunnar and Hogni, who, by this 
reckoning, seem to have killed nobody. The explanation probably 
is that lines 4-5 of stanza 49 are in bad shape. 

51. Five brothers: the Volsungasaga speaks of four (not 
five) sons of Buthli, but names only Atli. Regarding the death 
of the first two brothers cf. stanza 91 and note. The manuscript 
marks line 3 as beginning a stanza, and many editions combine 
lines 3-4 with stanza 52. Some insert lines 2-3 of stanza 52 ahead 
of lines 3-4 of stanza 51. 

52. Possibly a line has been lost from this stanza. The manu- 
script marks line 3 as beginning a new stanza, which is impos- 
sible unless something has been lost. Gold: the meaning of this 
half line is somewhat doubtful, but apparently Atli refers to 
Sigurth's treasure, which should have been his as Brynhild's 
brother. Sister: Brynhild; regarding Guthrun's indirect 
responsibility for Brynhild's death cf. Gripisspo, 45 and note. 




Guthrun spake: 

"Hear me now, Atli ! the first evil was thine ; 

My mother didst thou take, and for gold didst 

murder her, 

My sister's daughter thou didst starve in a prison. 

A jest does it seem that thy sorrow thou tellest. 

And good do I find it that grief to thee comes." 


Atli spake: 
"Go now, ye warriors, 

Of the woman so fair. 
So fierce be thy warring 
I would gladly behold 

and make greater the 

for fain would I see it ; 
that Guthrun shall weep, 
her happiness lost. 

55. "Seize ye now Hogni, and with knives shall ye 
hew him. 
His heart shall ye cut out, this haste ye to do ; 
And grim-hearted Gunnar shall ye bind on the 

53. The manuscript does not name the speaker. The Volsung- 
asaga gives the speech, in somewhat altered form, to Hogni: 
"Why speakest thou so? Thou wast the first to break peace; 
thou didst take my kinswoman and starved her in a prison, 
and murdered her and took her weahh; that was not kinglike; 
and laughable does it seem to me that thou talkest of thy sorrow, 
and good shall I find it that all goes ill with thee." This presum- 
ably represents the correct form of the stanza, for nowhere else 
is it intimated that Atli killed Guthrun's mother, Grimhild, nor 
is the niece elsewhere mentioned. Some editions make a separate 
stanza of lines 4-5, Grundtvig adding a line after line 3 and 
two more after line 5. Other editors are doubtful about the 
authenticity of either line 3 or line 5. 

54. The manuscript docs not indicate the speaker. 


Poetic Edda 

Swift shall ye do it, to serpents now cast him." 

Hogni spake: 

56. "Do now as thou wilt, for glad I await it, 
Brave shalt thou find me, I have faced worse 

before ; 

We held thee at bay while whole we were fight- 

Now with wounds are we spent, so thy will canst 
thou work." 

57. Then did Beiti speak, he was Atli's steward: 
"Let us seize now Hjalli, and Hogni spare we! 
Let us fell the sluggard, he is fit for death, 

He has lived too long, and lazy men call him." 

58. Afraid was the pot-watcher, he fled here and yon, 
And crazed with his terror he climbed in the 

corners : 

56. The text of the first half of line 3 is somewhat uncertain, 
but the general meaning of it is clear enough. 

57. Beiti: not elsewhere mentioned. The Atlakvitha version 
of this episode (stanzas 23-25) does not mention Beiti, and in 
the Volsungasaga the advice to cut out Hjalli's heart instead of 
Hogni's is given by an unnamed "counsellor of Atli." In the 
Atlakvitha Hjalli is actually killed; the Volsungasaga combines 
the two versions by having Hjalli first let off at Hogni's inter- 
cession and then seized a second time and killed, thus intro- 
ducing the Atlakvitha episode of the quaking heart (stanza 24). 
The text of the first half of line 3 is obscure, and there arc 
many and widely varying suggestions as to the word here 
rendered "sluggard." 

58. Some editions mark line 5 as probably interpolated, 



"111 for me is this fighting, if I pay for your 

And sad is the day —to die leaving my swine 
And all the fair victuals that of old did I have." 

59. They seized Buthli's cook, and they came veith 

the knife, 

The frightened thrall howled ere the edge did 
he feel; 

He was willing, he cried, to dung well the court- 

Do the basest of work, if spare him they would ; 

Full happy were Hjalli if his life he might have. 

60. Then fain was Hogni — there are few would do 

thus — 
To beg for the slave that safe hence he should go ; 
"I would find it far better this knife-play to feel. 
Why must we all hark to this howling longer?" 

61. Then the brave one they seized; to the warriors 


No chance was there left to delay his fate longer ; 

Loud did Hogni laugh, all the sons of day heard 


59. Cook: the original word is doubtful. The Volsungasaga 
does not paraphrase lines 3-5 ; the passage may be a later addi- 
tion, and line 5 is almost certainly so. 

61. It is probable that a stanza describing the casting of 
Gunnar into the serpents' den has been lost after this stanza. 
Sons of day: the phrase means no more than "men." 

[521 J 

Poetic Edda 
So valiant he was that well he could suffer. 

62. A harp Gunnar seized, with his toes he smote it; 
So well did he strike that the women all wept, 
And the men, when clear they heard it, lamented ; 
Full noble was his song, the rafters burst asunder. 

63. Then the heroes died ere the day was yet come ; 
Their fame did they leave ever lofty to live. 

64. Full mighty seemed Atli as o'er them he stood. 
The wise one he blamed, and his words re- 
proached her: 
"It is morning, Guthrun ; now thy dear ones dost 

But the blame is part thine that thus it has 

62. Regarding Gunnar's harp-playing, and his death, cf. 
Oddrunargratr, 27-30 and notes, and Atlakvitha, 34. Toes (lit- 
erally "sole-twigs") : the Volsungasaga explains that Gunnar's 
hands were bound. Rafters: thus literally, and probably cor- 
rectly; Gering has an ingenious but unlikely theory that the 
word means "harp." 

63. There is some doubt as to the exact meaning of line 2. 
After this line two lines may have been lost; Grundtvig adds: 
"Few braver shall ever be found on the earth, / Or 
loftier men in the world ever live." 

64. Wise one: Guthrun. The manuscript marks line 3 as 
beginning a new stanza. 



Guthrun spake: 

65. "Thou art joyous, Atli, for of evil thou tellest, 
But sorrow is thine if thou mightest all see ; 
Thy heritage heavy here can I tell thee, 
Sorrow never thou losest unless I shall die." 

Atli spake: 

66. "Not free of guilt am I ; a way shall I find 
That is better by far, — oft the fairest we 

shunned ; — 
With slaves I console thee, with gems fair to see, 
And with silver snow-white, as thyself thou shalt 


Guthrun spake: 

67. "No hope shall this give thee, thy gifts I shall 

take not, 
Requital I spurned when my sorrows were 

smaller ; 
Once grim did I seem, but now greater my 

There was nought seemed too hard while Hogni 

was living. 

65. The manuscript does not indicate the speaker. 

66. The manuscript does not name the speaker. The negative 
in the first half of line i is uncertain, and most editions make 
the clause read "Of this guilt I can free myself." The fairest, 
etc.: i. e., I have often failed to do the wise thing. 

67. The manuscript does not indicate the speaker. Requital, 
etc.: it is not clear just to what Guthrun refers; perhaps she is 
thinking of Sigurth's death, or possibly the poet had in mind 
his reference to the slaying of her mother in stanza 53. 


Poetic Edda 

68. "Our childhood did we have in a single house, 
We played many a game, in the grove did we 

Then did Grimhild give us gold and necklaces; 
Thou shalt ne'er make amends for my brother's 

Nor ever shalt win me to think it was well. 

69. "But the fierceness of men rules the fate of women, 
The tree-top bows low if bereft of its leaves, 
The tree bends over if the roots are cleft 

under it; 
Now mayest thou, Atli, o*er all things here rule," 

70. Full heedless the warrior was that he trusted her, 
So clear was her guile if on guard he had been; 
But crafty was Guthrun, with cunning she spake, 
Her glance she made pleasant, with two shields 

she played. 

68. Line 5 is very probably a later addition, though some 
editors question line 3 instead. 

69. Guthrun suddenly changes her tone in order to make Atli 
believe that she is submissive to his will, and thus to gain time 
for her vengeance. Line 2 in the original is thoroughly obscure; 
it runs literally: "On the knee goes the fist if the twigs are 
taken off." Perhaps the word meaning "fist" may also have 
meant "tree-top," as Gering suggests, or perhaps the line is 
an illogical blending of the ideas contained in lines i and 3. 

70. The manuscript indicates line 3 as the beginning of a 
new stanza. Tivo shields, etc.: i. e., Guthrun concealed her hos- 
tility (symbolized by a red shield, cf. Helgakvitha Hundings- 
bana I, 34) by a show of friendliness (a white shield). 

[ 524 ] 


7 1 . The beer then she brought for her brothers' death- 

And a feast Atli made for his followers dead ; 
No more did they speak, the mead was made 

Soon the men were gathered with mighty uproar. 

72. Thus bitterly planned she, and Buthli's race 

And terrible vengeance on her husband would 

The little ones called she, on a block she laid 

them ; 
Afraid were the proud ones, but their tears did 

not fall ; 
To their mother's arms went they, and asked 

what she would. 

Guthrun spake: 
73. "Nay, ask me no more! You both shall I murder, 

71. Many editions make a separate stanza of lines 1-2, some 
of them suggesting the loss of two lines, and combine lines 
3-4 with lines 1-2 of stanza 72. The manuscript marks both 
lines I and 3 as beginning stanzas. 

72. The manuscript marks line 3 as beginning a new stanza; 
some editions make a separate stanza of lines 3-5, while others 
combine them with lines 1-2 of stanza 73. Line 2 in the original 
is clearly defective, the verb being omitted. The meaning of 
line 3 is uncertain; the Volsungasaga paraphrase has: "At 
evening she took the sons of King Atli (Erp and Eitil) where 
they were playing with a block of wood." Probably the text of 
the line as we have it is faulty. Lines 4-5 may possibly have 
been expanded out of a single line, or line 5 may be spurious. 


Poetic Edda 

For long have I wished your lives to steal from 

The boys spake: 
"Slay thy boys as thou wilt, for no one may 

bar it, 
Short the angry one's peace if all thou shalt do." 

74. Then the grim one slew both of the brothers 

Full hard was her deed when their heads she 

smote off; 
Fain was Atli to know whither now they were 

The boys from their sport, for nowhere he spied 


Guthrun spake: 

75. "My fate shall I seek, all to Atli saying, 

The daughter of Grimhild the deed from thee 

hides not; 
No joy thou hast, Atli, if all thou shalt hear, 
Great sorrow didst wake when my brothers thou 

73. The manuscript does not name the speakers. It indi- 
cates line 3 as beginning a new stanza, in which it is followed 
by many editions. The Volsungasaga paraphrases line 4 thus: 
"But it is shameful for thee to do this." Either the text of the 
line has been changed or the Volsungasaga compilers misunder- 
stood it. The angry one: Atli. 

74. The manuscript indicates line 3 as beginning a new 

75. The manuscript does not name the speaker. 



76. "I have seldom slept since the hour they were 

Baleful were my threats, now I bid thee recall 

Thou didst say it was morning, — too well I 

remember, — 
Now is evening come, and this question thou 


77. "Now both of thy sons thou hast lost . . . 

as thou never shouldst do; 

The skulls of thy boys thou as beer-cups didst 

And the draught that I made thee was mixed with 
their blood. 

78. "I cut out their hearts, 
I came to thee with them, 

Alone didst thou eat them. 

on a spit I cooked them, 
and calf's flesh I called 

nor any didst leave. 

76. Morning: Guthrun refers to Atli's taunt in stanza 64. 

77. The manuscript indicates no gap (lines 1-2), and most 
editions make a single line, despite the defective meter: "Thy 
sons hast thou lost as thou never shouldst lose them." The 
second part of line 2 is in the original identical with the second 
half of line 3 of stanza 80, and may perhaps have been inserted 
here by mistake. Skulls: it is possible that line 3 was borrowed 
from a poem belonging to the Volund tradition (cf. Volundar' 
kv'ttha, 25 and 37), and the idea doubtless came from some such 
source, but probably the poet inserted it in a line of his own 
composition to give an added touch of horror. The Volsungasaga 
follows the Atlamol in including this incident. 


Poetic Edda 
Thou didst greedily bite, and thy teeth were busy. 

79. "Of thy sons now thou knowest ; few suffer more 

sorrow ; 
My guilt have I told, fame it jiever shall give 

A tit spake: 

80. "Grim wast thou, Guthrun, in so grievous a deed, 
My draught with the blood of thy boys to mingle; 
Thou hast slain thine own kin, most ill it be- 
seemed thee. 

And little for me twixt my sorrows thou leavest." 

Guthrun spake: 

81. "Still more would I seek to slay thee thyself, 
Enough ill comes seldom to such as thou art ; 
Thou didst folly of old, such that no one shall 


78. Some editions add lines 3-4 to stanza 79 ; Finnur Jonsson 
marks them as probably spurious. 

79. Perhaps these two lines should form part of stanza 78, 
or perhaps they, rather than lines 3-4 of stanza 78, are a later 
addition. A gap of two lines after line i has also been con- 

80. The manuscript does not indicate the speaker. 

81. The manuscript does not indicate the speaker. Lines 1-2 
may be the remains of a separate stanza; Grundtvig adds: "Thou 
wast foolish, Atli, when wise thou didst feel, / Ever the 
whole of thy race did I hate." The Volsungasaga para- 
phrase, however, indicates no gap. Many editions make a 
separate stanza of lines 3-6, which, in the Volsungasaga, are 
paraphrased as a speech of Atli's. Lines 5-6 may be spurious. 



In the whole world of men a match for such 

Now this that of late we learned hast thou added, 
Great evil hast grasped, and thine own death- 
feast made." 

Atli spake: 

82. "With fire shall they bum thee, and first shall 

they stone thee. 
So then hast thou earned what thou ever hast 
sought for." 

Guthrun spake: 
"Such woes for thyself shalt thou say in the morn- 
From a finer death I to another light fare." 

83. Together they sat and full grim were their 

Unfriendly their words, and no joy either found; 
In Hniflung grew hatred, great plans did he 

To Guthrun his anger against Atli was told. 

82. The manuscript docs not indicate the speakers. Many 
editions make two separate stanzas of the four lines. Another 
light: a fairly clear indication of the influence of Christianity; 
cf. Introductory Note. 

83. The manuscript marks line 3 as the beginning of a new 
stanza. Hniflung: the Volsungasaga says that "Hogni had a son 
who was called Hniflung," but the name appears to be nothing 
more than the familiar "Niflung" applied in general to the sons 
of Gjuki and their people. On the spelling cf. note on stanza 44. 


Poetic Edda 

84. To her heart came ever the fate of Hogni, 

She told him 'twere well if he vengeance should 

So was Atli slain,— 'twas not slow to await, — 
Hogni's son slew him, and Guthrun herself. 

85. Then the warrior spake, as from slumber he 

Soon he knew for his wounds would the bandage 

do nought: 
"Now the truth shalt thou say: who has slain 

Buthli's son? 
Full sore am I smitten, nor hope can I see." 

Guthrun spake: 

86. "Ne'er her deed from thee hides the daughter of 


This son of Hogni appears in later versions of the story. In the 
Thithrekssaga he is called Aldrian. and is begotten by Hogni 
the night before his death. Aldrian grows up and finally shuts 
Attila in a cave where he starves to death. The poet here has 
incorporated the idea, which finds no parallel in the Atlakvitha, 
without troubling himself to straighten out the chronology. 

84. Line 4 may be in Fornyrthislag, and from another poem. 

85. The manuscript marks line 3 as beginning a new stanza. 
The Vohungasaga makes line 2 part of Atli's speech. 

86. The manuscript does not name the speakers. It marks line 
4 as the beginning of a new stanza, and many editions follow 
this arrangement, in most cases making a stanza of lines 4-5 
and line 1 of stanza 87. However, line i may well have been 
interpolated here from stanza 75. Grundtvig adds after line 3 : 
"His father he avenged, and his kinsmen fully." Some 
editors assume the loss of one or two lines after line 5. 



I own to the guilt that is ending thy life, 

And the son of Hogni ; 'tis so thy wounds bleed." 

Atli spake: 
"To murder hast thou fared, though foul it must 

111 thy friend to betray who trusted thee well. 

87. "Not glad went I hence thy hand to seek, 

In thy widowhood famed, but haughty men found 

thee ; 
My belief did not lie, as now we have learned; 
I brought thee home hither, and a host of men 

with us. 

88. "Most noble was all when of old we journeyed, 
Great honor did we have of heroes full worthy; 
Of cattle had we plenty, and greatly we pros- 

Mighty was our wealth, and many received it. 

89. "To the famed one as bride-gift I gave jewels 

fair, V 

87. The manuscript marks line 2 as beginning a new stanza, 
and some editions make a stanza out of lines 2-4 and line i of 
stanza 88. 

88- The manuscript marks line 2 as the beginning of a stanza, 
and many editions make a stanza out of lines 2-4, or combine 
them with stanza 89. Some question the genuineness of line 4. 

89. Many editions assume a gap of one line after line 3; 


Poetic Edda 

I gave thirty slaves, and handmaidens seven ; 
There was honor in such gifts, yet the silver was 

90. "But all to thee was as if nought it were worth, 
While the land lay before thee that Buthli had 

left me ; 
Thou in secret didst work so the treasure I won 

My mother full oft to sit weeping didst make, 
No wedded joy found I in fullness of heart." 

Guthrun spake: 

91. "Thou liest now, Atli, though little I heed it; 

Grundtvig adds: "Bit-champing horses and wheel-wagons 

bright." Line 4 may be spurious. Greater: i. e., the silver which 
Atli gave Guthrun was of greater value even than the honor of 
receiving such royal gifts. Line 4 may be spurious. 

90. Some editions mark line 3 as spurious or defective. The 
manuscript marks line 4 as the beginning of a new stanza. The 
land, etc.: there is much obscurity as to the significance of this 
line. Some editors omit or question "me," in which case Atli is 
apparently reproaching Guthrun for having incited him to fight 
with his brothers to win for himself the whole of Buthli's land. 
In stanza 91 Guthrun denies that she was to blame for Atli's 
quarrels with his brothers. The Volsungasaga reading supports 
this interpretation. The historical Attila did actually have his 
brother, Bleda, killed in order to have the sole rule. The 
treasure: Sigurth's hoard, which Atli claimed as the brother of 
Brynhild and husband of Guthrun, Sigurth's widow, but which 
Gunnar and Hogni kept for themselves, with, as Atli here 
charges, Guthrun's connivance. My mother: the only other 
reference to Atli's mother is in Oddrunargratr, 30, wherein she 
appears as the adder who stings Gunnar to death, and in the 
prose passages based on that stanza. 



If I seldom was kindly, full cruel wast thou; 
Ye brothers fought young, quarrels brought you 

to battle. 
And half went to hell of the sons of thy house. 
And all was destroyed that should e'er have done 


92. "My two brothers and I were bold in our 

From the land we went forth, with Sigurth we 

fared ; 
Full swiftly we sailed, each one steering his ship. 
So our fate sought we e'er till we came to the 


93. "First the king did we slay, and the land we 


91. The manuscript does not indicate the speaker. It marks 
both lines 4 and 5 as beginning new stanzas, but line 5 is pre- 
sumably an interpolation. The text of the second half of line 
2 is obscure, and many emendations have been suggested. Ye 
brothers: cf. note on stanza 90. Half: i. e., two of Atli's brothers 
were killed, the other two dying in the battle with Gunnar and 
Hogni; cf. stanza 51. 

92. From the land: this maritime expedition of Guthrun and 
her two brothers, Gunnar and Hogni (the poet seems to know 
nothing of her half-brother, Gotthorm), with Sigurth seems to 
have been a pure invention of the poet's, inserted for the benefit 
of his Greenland hearers. Nothing further is reported concern- 
ing it. 

93. The forest: i. e., men who were outlawed in the con- 
quered land were restored to their rights — another purely Norse 


Poetic Edda 

The princes did us service, for such was their 

fear ; 
From the forest we called them we fain would 

have guiltless, 
And rich made we many who of all were bereft. 

94. "Slain was the Hun-king, soon happiness van- 

In her grief the widow so young sat weeping; 
Yet worse seemed the sorrow to seek Atli's 

A hero was my husband, and hard was his loss. 

95. "From the Thing thou camst never, for thus have 

we heard, 
Having won in thy quarrels, or warriors smitten ; 
Full yielding thou wast, never firm was thy will, 
In silence didst suffer, " 

Atli spake: 

96. "Thou liest now, Guthrun, but little of good 

94. Hun-king: Sigurth, though most illogically so called; cf. 
Sigurtharkmtha en skamma, 4 and note. The Volsungasaga 
paraphrase of line 2 is so remote as to be puzzling: "It was 
little to bear the name of widow." Perhaps, however, the word 
"not" fell out between "was" and "little." 

95. Thing, etc.: here the poet makes Atli into a typical Norse 
land-owner, going to the "Thing," or general law council, to 
settle his disputes. Even the compilers of the Volsungasaga could 
not accept this, and in their paraphrase changed "Thing" to 
"battle." The text of the second half of line 2 is uncertain. The 
manuscript leaves a blank to indicate the gap in line 4; Grund- 
tvig adds: "as beseems not a king." 



Will it bring to either, for all have we lost ; 
But, Guthrun, yet once be thou kindly of will. 
For the honor of both, when forth I am borne." 

Guthrun spake: 

97. "A ship will I buy, and a bright-hued coffin, 

I will wax well the shroud to wind round thy 

For all will I care as if dear were we ever." 

98. Then did Atli die, and his heirs' grief doubled; 
The high-born one did as to him she had 

promised ; 
Then sought Guthrun the wise to go to her death, 
But for days did she wait, and 'twas long ere she 


99. Full happy shall he be who such offspring has. 
Or children so gallant, as Gjuki begot; 
Forever shall live, and in lands far and wide, 
Their valor heroic wherever men hear it. 

97. The manuscript does not indicate the speaker. Many 
editors assume a gap either before or after line i. A ship: the 
burial of Norse chiefs in ships was of frequent occurrence, but 
the Greenland poet's application of the custom to Atli is some- 
what grotesque. 

98. Heirs, etc.: merely a stock phrase, here quite meaningless, 
as Atli's heirs had all been killed. Long: cf. Guthrunarhvot, 
introductory prose. 



Guthruns Inciting 

Introductory Note 

The two concluding poems in the Codex Regius, the Guthruri' 
arhvot {Guthrun's Inciting) and the Hamthesmol {The Ballad 
of Hamther), belong to a narrative cycle connected with those of 
Sigurth, the Burgundians, and Atli (cf. Gripisspo, introductory 
note) by only the slenderest of threads. Of the three early his- 
torical kings who gradually assumed a dominant place in Ger- 
manic legend, Ermanarich, king of the East Goths in the middle 
of the fourth century, was actually the least important, even 
though Jordanes, the sixth century author of De Rebus Getecis, 
compared him to Alexander the Great. Memories of his cruelty 
and of his tragic death, however, persisted along with the real 
glories of Theoderich, a century and a half later, and of the 
conquests of Attila, whose lifetime approximately bridged the 
gap between Ermanarich's death and Theoderich's birth. 

Chief among the popular tales of Ermanarich's cruelty was 
one concerning the death of a certain Sunilda or Sanielh, whom, 
according to Jordanes, he caused to be torn asunder by wild 
horses because of her husband's treachery. Her brothers, Sarus 
and Ammius, seeking to avenge her, wounded but failed to kill 
Ermanarich. In this story is the root of the two Norse poems 
included in the Codex Regius. Sunilda easily became the wife as 
well as the victim of the tyrant, and, by the process of legend- 
blending so frequently observed, the story was connected with 
the more famous one of the Nibelungs by making her the daugh- 
ter of Sigurth and Guthrun. To account for her brothers, a third 
husband had to be found for Guthrun; the Sarus and Ammius of 
Jordanes are obviously the Sorli and Hamther, sons of Guthrun 
and Jonak, of the Norse poems. The blending of the Sigurth and 
Ermanarich legends probably, though not certainly, took place 
before the story reached the North, in other words before the end 
of the eighth century. 

Regarding the exact status of the Guthrunarhvot and the 
Hamthesmol there has been a great deal of discussion. That they 
are closely related is obvious; indeed the first parts of the two 
poems are nearly identical in content and occasiortally so in actual 
diction. The annotator, in his concluding prose note, refers to 



the second poem as the "old" ballad of Hamther, wherefore it 
has been assumed by some critics that the composer of the Guth- 
runarhvot used the Hamthesmol, approximately as it now stands, 
as the source of part of his material. The extant Hamthesmol, 
however, is almost certainly a patchwork; part of it is in For- 
nyrthislag (cf. Introduction), including most of the stanzas 
paralleled in the Guthrunarhvot, and likewise the stanza fol- 
lowed directly by the reference to the "old" ballad, while the 
rest is in Malahattr. The most reasonable theory, therefore, is 
that there existed an old ballad of Hamther, all in Fornyrthislag, 
from which the composer of the Guthrunarhvot borrowed a few 
stanzas as the introduction for his poem, and which the composer 
of the extant, or "new," Hamthesmol likewise used, though far 
more clumsily. 

The title "Guthrunarhvot," which appears in the Codex 
Regius, really applies only to stanzas i-8, all presumably bor- 
rowed from the "old" ballad of Hamther. The rest of the poem 
is simply another Guthrun lament, following the tradition ex- 
emplified by the first and second Guthrun lays; it is possible, 
indeed, that it is made up of fragments of two separate laments, 
one (stanzas 9-18) involving the story of Svanhild's death, and 
the other (stanzas 19-21) coming from an otherwise lost version 
of the story in which Guthrun closely follows Sigurth and Bryn- 
hild in death. In any event the present title is really a misnomer; 
the poet, who presumably was an eleventh century Icelander, 
used the episode of Guthrun's inciting her sons to vengeance for 
the slaying of Svanhild simply as an introduction to his main 
subject, the last lament of the unhappy queen. 

The text of the poem in Regius is by no means in good shape, 
and editorial emendations have been many and varied, particu- 
larly in interchanging lines between the Guthrunarhvot and the 
Hamthesmol. The Volsungasaga paraphrases the poem with such 
fidelity as to prove that it lay before the compilers of the saga 
approximately in its present form. 

Guthrun went forth to the sea after she had slain AtH. 
She went out into the sea and fain would drown herself, 
but she could not sink. The waves bore her across the 


Poetic Edda 

fjord to the land of King Jonak; he took her as wife; 
their sons were Sorli and Erp and Hamther. There was 
brought up Svanhild, Sigurth's daughter; she was mar- 
ried to the mighty Jormunrek. With him was Bikki, who 
counselled that Randver, the king's son, should have her. 
This Bikki told to the king. The king had Randver 
hanged, and Svanhild trodden to death under horses* feet. 
And when Guthrun learned this, she spake with her sons. 

Prose. In the manuscript the prose is headed "Of Guthrun," 
the title "Guthrunarhvot" preceding stanza i. The prose intro- 
duction is used both by Snorri {Skaldskaparmal, chapter 42) and 
in the Volsungasaga. It. would be interesting to know on what 
the annotator based this note, for neither Bikki nor Randver is 
mentioned by name in either the Guthrunarhvot or the Hamthes- 
mol. On the prose notes in general, cf. Reginsmol, introductory 
note. Guthrun: on the slaying of Atli by his wife, Guthrun, 
Sigurth's widow, cf. Atlamol, 83-86 and notes. Jonak: a Northern 
addition to the legend, introduced to account for Svanhild's half- 
brothers; the name is apparently of Slavic origin. Sorli, Erp, 
and Hamther: Sorli and Hamther arc the Sarus and Ammius of 
the Jordanes story (cf. introductory note). The Volsungasaga 
follows this note in making Erp likewise a son of Guthrun, but 
in the Hamthesmol he is a son of Jonak by another wife. Svan- 
hild: cf. Sigurtharkvitha en skamma, 54 and note. Jormunrek 
(Ermanarich) : cf. introductory note. Bikki: the Sifka or Sibicho 
of the Gothic legends of Ermanarich, whose evil counsel always 
brings trouble. Randver: in the Volsungasaga Jormunrek sends 
his son Randver with Bikki to seek Svanhild's hand. On the voyage 
home Bikki says to Randver: "It were right for you to have so 
fair a wife, and not such an old man." Randver was much 
pleased with this advice, "and he spake to her with gladness, and 
she to him." Thus the story becomes near of kin to those of 
Tristan and Iseult and Paolo and Franccsca. According to the 
Volsungasaga, Bikki told Ermanarich that a guilty love existed 
between his son and his young wife, and presumably the anno- 
tator here meant as much by his vague "this." 



1. A word-strife I learned, most woeful of all, 

A speech from the fullness of sorrow spoken, 
When fierce of heart her sons to the fight 
Did Guthrun whet with words full grim. 

2. "Why sit ye idle, why sleep out your lives, 
Why grieve ye not in gladness to speak? 
Since Jormunrek your sister young 
Beneath the hoofs of horses hath trodden, 
(White and black on the battle- way. 

Gray, road-wonted, the steeds of the Goths.) 

3. "Not like are ye to Gunnar of yore. 

Nor have ye hearts such as Hogni's was; 
Vengeance for her ye soon would have 
If brave ye were as my brothers of old. 
Or hard your hearts as the Hunnish kings'." 

4. Then Hamther spake, the high of heart : 
"Little the deed of Hogni didst love, 

1. The poet's introduction of himself in this stanza is a fairly 
certain indication of the relative lateness of the poenn. 

2. Idle: a guess ; a word is obviously missing in the original. 
The manuscript marks line 5 as beginning a new stanza, and 
lines 5-6 may well have been inserted from another part of the 
"old" Hamthesmol (cf. Hamthesmol, 3). 

3. Gunnar and Hogni: cf. Drap Niftunga. Line 5 may be in- 
terpolated. Hunnish: here used, as often, merely as a generic 
term for all South Germanic peoples; the reference is to the 
Burgundian Gunnar and Hogni. 

4. Hamther: some editions spell the name "Hamthir." Sigurth, 
etc.: cf. Sigurtharkvitha en skamma, 21-24, and Brot, concluding 
prose. This stanza has been subjected to many conjectural re- 


Poetic Edda 

When Sigurth they wakened from his sleep; 
Thy bed-covers white were red with blood 
Of thy husband, drenched with gore from his 

5. "Bloody revenge didst have for thy brothers, 
Evil and sore, when thy sons didst slay; 
Else yet might we all on Jormunrek 
Together our sister's slaying avenge. 

6. "... 

The gear of the Hunnish kings now give us! 
Thou hast whetted us so to the battle of swords.'* 

7. Laughing did Guthrun go to her chamber, 
The helms of the kings from the cupboards she 

And mail-coats broad, to her sons she bore them; 
On their horses' backs the heroes leaped. 

8. Then Hamther spake, the high of heart: 

arrangements, some editors adding two or three lines from the 

5. Bloody: a guess; a word in the original is clearly missing, 
and the same is true of all in line 3. Thy sons: i.e., by killing her 
sons Erp and Eitil (cf. Atlamol, 72-74) Guthrun deprived Ham- 
ther, Sorli, and the second Erp of valuable allies in avenging 
Svanhild's death. 

6. The manuscript indicates no gap, but most editors assume 
the loss of one, tv?o or even more lines before the two here given. 

7. The manuscript indicates line 4 as beginning a new stanza. 

8. Line i, identical with line i of stanza 4, may be interpo- 



"Homeward no more his mother to see 
Comes the spear-god, fallen mid Gothic folk; 
One death-draught thou for us all shalt drink, 
For Svanhild then and thy sons as well." 

9. Weeping Guthrun, Gjuki's daughter, 
Went sadly before the gate to sit, 
And with tear-stained cheeks to tell the tale 
Of her mighty griefs, so many in kind. 

10. "Three home-fires knew I, three hearths I knew, 
Home was I brought by husbands three; 

But Sigurth only of all was dear, 

He whom my brothers brought to his death. 

11. "A greater sorrow I saw not nor knew, 
Yet more it seemed I must suffer yet 
When the princes great to Atli gave me. 

12. "The brave boys I summoned to secret speech; 
For my woes requital I might not win 

Till off the heads of the Hniflungs I hewed. 

lated here. Spear-god: warrior, i.e., Hamther himself. With this 
stanza the introductory hvot ("inciting") ends, and stanza 9 
introduces the lament which forms the real body of the poem. 

11. Line i in the original is of uncertain meaning. Many 
editors assume the loss of a line after line i, and some completely 
reconstruct line i on the basis of a hypothetical second line. 
Princes: Gunnar and Hogni. 

12. Some editors assume the loss of one line, or more, before 
line I. Hniflungs: Erp and Eitil, the sons of Guthrun and Atli. 
On the application of the name Niflung (or, as later spelt, 

[ 541 ] 

Poetic Edda 

13. "To the sea I went, my heart full sore 

For the Norns, whose wrath I would now escape ; 
But the lofty billows bore me undrowned, 
Till to land I came, so I longer must live. 

14. "Then to the bed — of old was it better! — 
Of a King of the folk a third time I came ; 
Boys I bore his heirs to be. 

Heirs so young, the sons of Jonak. 

15. "But round Svanhild handmaidens sat, 
She was dearest ever of all my children; 
So did Svanhild seem in my hall 

As the ray of the sun is fair to see. 

16. "Gold I gave her and garments bright. 
Ere I let her go to the Gothic folk ; 
Of my heavy woes the hardest it was 
When Svanhild's tresses fair were trodden 
In the mire by hoofs of horses wild. 

17. "The sorest it was when Sigurth mine 

Hniflung) to the descendants of Gjuki, Guthrun's father, cf. 
Brot, 17, note. 

13. Norns: the fates; cf. Voluspo, 8 and note. 

14. The manuscript omits the first half of line 4. 

16. Some editors assume a gap of two lines after line 2, and 
make a separate stanza of lines 3-5; Gering adds a sixth line of 
his own coining, while Grundtvig inserts one between lines 3 and 
4. The manuscript indicates line 5 as beginning a new stanza. 

17. The manuscript does not indicate line i as beginning a 
stanza (cf. note on stanza 16). Stanzas 17 and 18 are very likely 



On his couch, of victory robbed, they killed; 
And grimmest of all when to Gunnar's heart 
There crept the bright-hued crawling snakes. 

1 8. "And keenest of all when they cut the heart 
From the living breast of the king so brave; 
Many woes I remember, 

19. "Bridle, Sigurth, thy steed so black, 
Hither let run thy swift-faring horse; 
Here there sits not son or daughter 
Who yet to Guthrun gifts shall give. 

later interpolations, although the compilers of the Volsungasaga 
knew them as they stand here. The whole passage depends on 
the shades of difference in the meanings of the various superla- 
tives: harpastr, "hardest"; sdrastr, "sorest"; grimmastr, "grim- 
mest," and hvassastr, "keenest." Snakes: cf. Drap Niflunga. 

18. The king: Hogni; cf. Atlakvitha, 25. The manuscript 
marks line 3 as beginning a new stanza. Most editors agree 
that there is a more or less extensive gap after stanza 18, and 
some of them contend that the original ending of the poem is 
lost, stanzas 19-21 coming from a different poem, probably a 
lament closely following Sigurth's death. 

19. The manuscript does not indicate line i as beginning a 
stanza, and it immediately follows the fragmentary line 3 of 
stanza 18. The resemblance between stanzas 19-21 and stanzas 
64-69 of Sigurtharkvitha en skamma suggests that, in some other- 
wise lost version of the story, Guthrun, like Brynhild, sought to 
die soon after Sigurth's death. Thy steed: Guthrun's appeal to 
the dead Sigurth to ride back to earth to meet her is reminiscent 
of the episode related in Helgakvitha Hundingsbana II, 39-48. 
The promise mentioned in stanza 20 is spoken of elsewhere only 
in the Volsungasaga paraphrase of this passage. 


Poetic Edda 

20. "Remember, Sigurth, what once we said, 
When together both on the bed we sat, 
That mightily thou to me wouldst come 
From hell and I from earth to thee. 

21. "Pile ye up, jarls, the pyre of oak, 
Make it the highest a hero e'er had; 
Let the fire burn my grief-filled breast, 

My sore-pressed heart, till my sorrows melt." 

22. May nobles all less sorrow know, 
And less the woes of women become, 
Since the tale of this lament is told. 

21. Perhaps something has been lost between stanzas 20 and 
21, or possibly stanza 21, while belonging originally to the same 
poem as stanzas 19 and 20, did not directly follow them. Sore- 
pressed: a guess; a word seems to have been omitted in the 

22. Words of the poet's, like stanza i, and perhaps consti- 
tuting a later addition. Many editors assume the loss of a line 
after line 3. The meaning, of course, is that the poet hopes the 
story of Guthrun's woes will make all other troubles seem light 
by comparison. 



The Ballad of Hamther 

Introductory Note 

The Hamthesmol, the concluding poem in the Codex Regius, 
is on the whole the wprst preserved of all the poems in the col- 
lection. The origin of the story, the relation of the Hamthesmol 
to the Guthrunarhvot, and of both poems to the hypothetical 
"old" Hamthesmol, are outlined in the introductory note to the 
Guthrunarhvot. The Hamthesmol as we have it is certainly not 
the "old" poem of that name; indeed it is so pronounced a patch- 
work that it can hardly be regarded as a coherent poem at all. 
Some of the stanzas are in Fornyrthislag, some are in Malahattr, 
one (stanza 29) appears to be in Ljothahattr, and in many cases 
the words can be adapted to any known metrical form only by 
liberal emendation. That any one should have deliberately com- 
posed such a poem seems quite incredible, and it is far more 
likely that some eleventh century narrator constructed a poem 
about the death of Hamther and Sorli by piecing together various 
fragments, and possibly adding a number of Malahattr stanzas 
of his own. 

It has been argued, and with apparently sound logic, that our 
extant Hamthesmol originated in Greenland, along with the 
Atlamol. In any case, it can hardly have been put together before 
the latter part of the eleventh century, although the "old" Ham- 
thesmol undoubtedly long antedates this period. Many editors 
have attempted to pick out the parts of the extant poem which 
were borrowed from this older lay, but the condition of the 
text is such that it is by no means clear even what stanzas are 
in Fornyrthislag and what in Malahattr. Many editors, likewise, 
indicate gaps and omissions, but it seems doubtful whether the 
extant Hamthesmol ever had a really consecutive quality, its 
component fragments having apparently been strung together 
with little regard for continuity. The notes indicate some of the 
more important editorial suggestions, but make no attempt to 
cover all of them, and the metrical form of the translation is 
often based on mere guesswork as to the character of the original 
lines and stanzas. Despite the chaotic state of the text, how- 
ever, the underlying narrative is reasonably clear, and the story 
can be followed with no great difficulty. 


Poetic Edda 

1. Great the evils once that grew, 

With the dawning sad of the sorrow of elves ; 

In early morn awake for men 

The evils that grief to each shall bring. 

2. Not now, nor yet of yesterday was it, 
Long the time that since hath lapsed, 
So that little there is that is half as old, 
Since Guthrun, daughter of Gjuki, whetted 
Her sons so young to Svanhild's vengeance. 

3. "The sister ye had was Svanhild called. 
And her did Jormunrek trample with horses. 
White and black on the battle-way, 

Gray, road-wonted, the steeds of the Goths. 

4. "Little the kings of the folk are ye like. 
For now ye are living alone of my race. 

1. This stanza looks like a later interpolation from a totally 
unrelated source. Sorrow of elves: the sun; cf. Alvissmol, 16 and 

2. Some editors regard lines i-a as interpolated, while others 
question line 3. Guthrun, etc.: regarding the marriage of Jonak 
and Guthrun (daughter of Gjuki, sister of Gunnar and Hogni, 
and widow first of Sigurth and then of Atli), and the sons of 
this marriage, Hamther and Sorli (but not Erp), cf. Guthrunar- 
hvot, introductory prose and note. 

3. Svanhild and Jormunrek: regarding the manner in which 
Jormunrek (Ermanarich) married Svanhild, daughter of Sigurth 
and Guthrun, and afterwards had her trodden to death by horses, 
cf. Guthrunarhvot, introductory note. Lines 3-4 are identical 
with lines 5-6 of Guthrunarhvot, 2. 

4. These two lines may be all that is left of a four-line stanza. 

[546 ] 


5. "Lonely am I as the forest aspen, 

Of kindred bare as the fir of its boughs, 
My joys are all lost as the leaves of the tree 
When the scather of twigs from the warm day 

6. Then Hamther spake forth, the high of heart : 
"Small praise didst thou, Guthrun, to Hogni's 

deed give 
When they wakened thy Sigurth from out of his 

Thou didst sit on the bed while his slayers 


7. "Thy bed-covers white with blood were red 
From his wounds, and with gore of thy husband 

were wet; 

The manuscript and many editions combine them with stanza 5, 
while a few place them after stanza 5 as a separate stanza, re- 
versing the order of the two lines. Kings of the folk: Guthrun's 
brothers, Gunnar and Hogni, slain by Atli. 

5. Cf. note on stanza 4; the manuscript does not indicate line 
I as beginning a stanza. Scather of tivigs: poetic circumlocution 
for the wind (cf. Skaldskaparmal, chapter 27), though some 
editors think the phrase here means the sun. Some editors assume 
a more or less extensive gap between stanzas 5 and 6. 

6. Lines 1-3 are nearly identical with lines 1-3 of Guthrunar- 
hvot, 4. On the death of Sigurth cf. Sigurtharkvitha en skamma, 
21-24, and Brot, concluding prose. The word thy in line 3 is 
omitted in the original. 

7. Lines 1-2 are nearly identical with lines 4-5 of Guthrunar- 
hvot, 4. The manuscript, followed by many editions, indicates 
line 3 and not line i as beginning a stanza. 


Poetic Edda 

So Sigurth was slain, by his corpse didst thou sit, 
And of gladness didst think not: 'twas Gunnar's 

8. "Thou wouldst strike at Atli by the slaying of 

And the killing of Eitil; thine own grief was 

So should each one wield the wound-biting sword 
That another it slays but smites not himself." 

9. Then did Sorli speak out, for wise was he ever: 
"With my mother I never a quarrel will make; 
Full little in speaking methinks ye both lack ; 
What askest thou, Guthrun, that will give thee 

no tears? 

10. "For thy brothers dost weep, and thy boys so 

Thy kinsmen in birth on the battlefield slain; 
Now, Guthrun, as well for us both shalt thou 

We sit doomed on our steeds, and far hence shall 

we die." 

8. Some editors regard this stanza as interpolated. Erp and 
Eitil: regarding Guthrun's slaying of her sons by Atli, cf. Atla- 
mol, 72-75. The Erp here referred to is not to be confused with 
the Erp, son of Jonak, who appears in stanza 13. The whole of 
stanza 8 is in doubtful shape, and many emendations have been 

10. Some editors assign this speech to Hamther. Brothers: 
Gunnar and Hogni. Boys: Erp and Eitil. 



1 1. Then the fame-glad one — on the steps she was — 
The slender-fingered, spake with her son: 
"Ye shall danger have if counsel ye heed not; 

By two heroes alone shall two hundred of Goths 
Be bound or be slain in the lofty-walled burg." 

12. From the courtyard they fared, and fury they 

breathed ; 
The youths swiftly went o'er the mountain wet, 
On their Hunnish steeds, death's vengeance to 


13. On the way they found the man so wise; 

11. In the manuscript this stanza follows stanza 21, and 
some editors take the word here rendered "fame-glad one" 
(hr6J)rgl9l)) to be a proper name (Jormunrek's mother or his 
concubine). The Volsungasaga, however, indicates that Guthrun 
at this point "had so fashioned their war-gear that iron would 
not bite into it, and she bade them to have nought to do with 
stones or other heavy things, and told them that it would be ill 
for them if they did not do as she said." The substance of this 
counsel may well have been conveyed in a passage lost after 
line 3, though the manuscript indicates no gap. It is by being 
stoned that Hamther and Sorli are killed (stanza 26). On the 
other hand, the second part of line 3 may possibly mean "if 
silent ye are not," in which case the advice relates to Ham- 
ther's speech to Jormunrek and Sorli's reproach to him thereupon 
(stanzas 25 and 27). Steps: the word in the original is doubtful. 
Line 3 is thoroughly obscure. Some editors make a separate stanza 
of lines 3-5, while others question line 5. 

12. Many editors assume the loss of a line after line i. In 
several editions lines 2-3 are placed after line 2 of stanza 18. 
Hunnish: the word meant little more than "German"; cf. 
Guthrunarhvot, 3 and note. 


Poetic Edda 

"What help from the weakling brown may we 

14. So answered them their half-brother then: 
"So well may I my kinsmen aid 

As help one foot from the other has." 

15. "How may a foot its fellow aid, 

Or a flesh-grown hand another help ?" 

16. Then Erp spake forth, his words were few, 
As haughty he sat on his horse's back: 

13. In the manuscript these two lines follow stanza i6; some 
editors insert them in place of lines 2-3 of stanza 11. The manu- 
script indicates no gap. The man so tvise: Erp, here represented 
as a son of Jonak but not of Guthrun, and hence a half-brother 
of Hamther and Sorli. There is nothing further to indicate 
whether or not he was born out of wedlock, as intimated in 
stanza 16. Some editors assign line 3 to Hamther, and some to 

14. The stanza is obviously defective. Many editors add Erp's 
name in line i, and insert between lines 2 and 3 a line based on 
stanza 15 and the Volsungasaga paraphrase: "As a flesh- 
grown hand another helps." In the Volsungasaga, after Erp's 
death, Hamther stumbles and saves himself from falling with his 
hand, whereupon he says: "Erp spake truly; I had fallen had I 
not braced myself with my hand." Soon thereafter Sorli has a 
like experience, one foot slipping but the other saving him from 
a fall. "Then they said that they had done ill to Erp, their 

15. Many editions attach these two lines to stanza 14, while 
a few assume the loss of two lines. 

16. In the manuscript this stanza stands between stanzas I2 
and 13. Some editors make line 4 a part of Erp's speech. 



"To the timid 'tis ill the way to tell." 
A bastard they the bold one called. 

17. From their sheaths they drew their shining 

Their blades, to the giantess joy to give; 
By a third they lessened the might that was 

The fighter young to earth they felled. 

18. Their cloaks they shook, their swords they 

The high-born men wrapped their mantles close. 

19. On their road they fared and an ill way found, 
And their sister's son on a tree they saw. 

On the wind-cold wolf-tree west of the hall, 
And cranes'-bait crawled; none would care to 

17. The manuscript does not indicate line i as beginning a 
stanza. The giantess: presumably the reference is to Hel, god- 
dess of the dead, but the phrase is doubtful. 

i8. In the manuscript these two lines are followed by stanza 
19 with no indication of a break. Some editions insert here lines 
2-3 of stanza 12, while others assume the loss of two or more 

19. Cf. note on stanza 18. /// ijuay: very likely the road lead- 
ing through the gate of Jormunrek's town at which Svanhild was 
trampled to death. Sister's son: many editors change the text to 
read "stepson," for the reference is certainly to Randver, son of 
Jormunrek, hanged by his father on Bikki's advice (cf. Guth- 
runarhvot, introductory note). Wolf-tree: the gallows, the wolf 
being symbolical of outlaws. Cranes'-bait: presumably either 
snakes or worms, but the passage is doubtful. 


Poetic Edda 

20. In the hall was din, the men drank deep, 
And the horses' hoofs could no one hear, 
Till the warrior hardy sounded his horn. 

21. Men came and the tale to Jormunrek told 
How warriors helmed without they beheld: 
"Take counsel wise, for brave ones are come, 
Of mighty men thou the sister didst murder." 

22. Then Jormunrek laughed, his hand laid on his 

His arms, for with wine he was warlike, he called 

He shook his brown locks, on his white shield 

he looked, 
And raised high the cup of gold in his hand. 

23. "Happy, methinks, were I to behold 
Hamther and Sorli here in my hall ; 

20. Many editors assume the loss of a line after line s- The 
ivarrior: presumably a warder or watchman, but the reference 
may be to Hamther himself. 

21. The word here rendered men (line i) is missing in the 
original, involving a metrical error, and various words have 
been suggested. 

22. Line 2 in the original is thoroughly obscure ; some editors 
directly reverse the meaning here indicated by giving the line a 
negative force, while others completely alter the phrase rendered 
"his arms he called for" into one meaning "he stroked his cheeks." 

23. Gjuki's heirs: the original has "the well-born of Gjuki," 
and some editors have changed the proper name to Guthrun, but 
the phrase apparently refers to Hamther and Sorli as Gjuki's 
grandsons. In the manuscript this stanza is followed by stanza 11, 



The men would I bind with strings of bows, 
And Gjuki's heirs on the gallows hang." 

24. In the hall was clamor, the cups were shattered. 
Men stood in blood from the breasts of the Goths. 

25. Then did Hamther speak forth, the haughty of 

"Thou soughtest, Jormunrek, us to see, 
Sons of one mother seeking thy dwelling; 
Thou seest thy hands, thy feet thou beholdest, 
Jormunrek, flung in the fire so hot." 

26. Then roared the king, of the race of the gods, 
Bold in his armor, as roars a bear: 

"Stone ye the men that steel will bite not, 
Sword nor spear, the sons of Jonak." 

and such editors as have retained this arrangement have had to 
resort to varied and complex explanations to account for it. 

24. Editors have made various efforts to reconstruct a four- 
line stanza out of these two lines, in some cases with the help of 
lines borrowed from the puzzling stanza 11 (cf. note on stanza 
23). Line 2 in the original is doubtful. 

25. Some editors mark line i as an interpolation. The manu- 
script marks line 4 as beginning a new stanza. As in the story 
told by Jordanes, Hamther and Sorli succeed in wounding Jor- 
munrek (here they cut off his hands and feet), but do not kill 

26. The manuscript marks line 3, and not line i, as beginning 
a stanza. Of the race of the gods: the reference here is appar- 
ently to Jormunrek, but in the Volsungasaga the advice to kill 
Hamther and Sorli with stones, since iron will not wound them 
(cf. note on stanza 11), comes from Othin, who enters the hall 
as ao old man with one eye. 


Poetic Edda 

Sorli spake: 

27. "Ill didst win, brother, when the bag thou didst 

Oft from that bag came baleful counsel; 
Heart hast thou, Hamther, if knowledge thou 

hadst ! 
A man without wisdom is lacking in much." 

Hamther spake: 

28. "His head were now oflE if Erp were living, 
The brother so keen whom we killed on our road, 
The warrior noble, — 'twas the Norns that drove 

The hero to slay who in fight should be holy. 

29. "In fashion of wolves it befits us not 

Amongst ourselves to strive. 

27. In the manuscript this stanza is introduced by the same 
line as stanza 25: "Then did Hamther speak forth, the 
haughty of heart," but the speaker in this case must be Sorli and 
not Hamther. Some editors, however, give lines 1-2 to Hamther 
and lines 3-4 to Sorli. Bag: i.e., Hamther's mouth; cf. note on 
stanza 11. The manuscript indicates line 3 as beginning a new 

28. Most editors regard stanzas 28-30 as a speech by Hamther, 
but the manuscript does not indicate the speaker, and some 
editors assign one or two of the stanzas to Sorli. Lines 1-2 are 
quoted in the Volsungasaga. The manuscript does not indicate 
line I as beginning a stanza. Erp: Hamther means that while the 
two brothers had succeeded only in wounding Jormunrek, Erp, 
if he had been with them, would have killed him. Lines 3-4 may 
be a later interpolation. Norns: the fates; the word used in the 
original means the goddesses of ill fortune. 



Like the hounds of the Norns, that nourished 
In greed mid wastes so grim. 

30. "We have greatly fought, o'er the Goths do we 


By our blades laid low, like eagles on branches; 

Great our fame though we die today or tomor- 

None outlives the night when the Norns have 

31. Then Sorli beside the gable sank. 

And Hamther fell at the back of the house. 

This is called the old ballad of Hamther. 

29. This is almost certainly an interpolated Ljothahattr 
stanza, though some editors have tried to expand it into the For- 
nyrthislag form. Hounds of the Norns: wolves. 

30. Some editors assume a gap after this stanza. 

31. Apparently a fragment of a stanza from the "old" Ham- 
thesmol to which the annotator's concluding prose note refers. 
Some editors assume the loss of two lines after line 2. 

Prose. Regarding the "old" Hamthesmol, of. Guthrunarhvot, 
introductory note. 



Introductory Note 

The pronunciations indicated in the following index are 
in many cases, at best, mere approximations, and in some 
cases the pronunciation of the Old Norse is itself more or 
less conjectural. For the sake of clarity it has seemed 
advisable to keep the number of phonetic symbols as small 
as possible, even though the result is occasional failure to 
distinguish between closely related sounds. In every in- 
stance the object has been to provide the reader with a 
clearly comprehensible and approximately correct pronun- 
ciation, for which reason, particularly in such matters as 
division of syllables, etymology has frequently been disre- 
garded for the sake of phonetic clearness. For exapiple, 
when a root syllable ends in a long (double) consonant, 
the division has arbitrarily been made so as to indicate the 
sounding of both elements (e. g., Am-ma, not Amm-a). 

As many proper names occur in the notes but not in the 
text, and as frequently the more important incidents con- 
nected with the names are outlined in notes which would 
not be indicated by textual references alone, the page num- 
bers include all appearances of proper names in the notes 
as well as in the text. 

The following general rules govern the application of 
the phonetic symbols used in the index, and also indicate 
the approximate pronunciation of the unmarked vowels 
and consonants. 

Vowels. The vowels are pronounced approximately as 
follows : 

a - as in "alone" o - as in "on" 

a - as in "father" 6 - as in "old" 

e - as in "men" 6 - as in German "offnen" 

e-as a in "fate" o-as in German "schon" 

i-as in "is" 9 -as aiv in "law" 

i - as in "machine" u - as ou in "would" 



u-as ou in "wound" ei-as ey in "they" 

V - as i in "is" \ Both with a ey - as in "thejr" 

- • ii[ )) >• slight sound ■' • it ^t 

y-as ee m "free ^ of German u au-as ou in "our 
ae - as e in "men" ai - as i in "fine" 

ffi - as a in "fate" 

No attempt has been made to differentiate between the 
short open "o" and the short closed "o," which for speakers 
of English closely resemble one another. 

Consonants. The consonants are pronounced approxi- 
mately as in English, with the following special points to 
be noted : 

G is always hard, as in "get," never soft, as in "gem ;" 
following "n" it has the same sound as in "sing." 

/ is pronounced as y in "young." 

Th following a vowel is soft, as in "with ;" at the begin- 
ning of a word or following a consonant it is hard, as in 

The long (doubled) consonants should be pronounced as 
in Italian, both elements beirig distinctly sounded; e. g., 

S is always hard, as in "so," "this," never soft, as in "as." 

H enters into combinations with various following con- 
sonants; with "v" the sound is approximately that of wh 
in "what" ; with "1," "r" and "n" it produces sounds which 
have no exact English equivalents, but which can be ap- 
proximated by pronouncing the consonants with a marked 
initial breathing. 

Accents. The accented syllable in each name is indi- 
cated by the acute accent (')• I" many names, however, 
and particularly in compounds, there is both a primary and 
a secondary accent, and where this is the case the primary 
stress is indicated by a double acute accent ('') and the 
secondary one by a single acute accent (')• To avoid 
possible confusion with the long vowel marks used in Old 
Norse texts, the accents are placed, not over the vowels, but 
after the accented syllables. 

[ 558 1 


^g'-ir, the sea-god, 102, 132, 
139-141, 150-154, 156-158, 161, 
172, 199, 280, 299, 300, 314, 

324. 359- 
yEk'-in, a river, 95. 
Af'-i, Grandfather, 204, 207. 
Ag'-nar, a ivarrior, 390, 444, 

Ag'-nar, brother of Geirroth, 

8s, 86. 
Ag'-nar, son of Geirroth, 84, 

87, 88, 106. 
Ai, a divarf, 6, 8. 
Ai, Great-Grandfather, 204. 
Alf, a divarf, 8. 
Alf, husband of Hjordis, 335, 

336, 359. 374. 454- 
Alf, slayer of Helgi, 286, 288, 

289, 331. 
Alf, son of Dag, zzz, 454. 
Alf, son of Hring, 306. 
Alf, son of Hunding, 295, 316, 

Alf, son of Ulf, 222. 
Alf'-heim, home of the elves, 

3, 88, 186. 
Alf'-hild, zvife of Hjorvarth, 

272, 273. 
Alf'-roth-ul, the sun, 81. 
Al'-gron, an island, 127. 
Al'-i, a ivarrior, 222. 
Alm'-veig, wife of Halfdan, 


A'-lof, daughter of Franmar, 

273, 27s, 276- 
Al'-svith, a giant, 62. 
Al'-svith, a horse, 99, 100, 394. 
Al'-thjof, a divarf, 6. 
Al'-vald-i, -a giant, 128. 
Al'-vis, a d^varf, 183-193. 
Ar'-viss-mjl, the Ballad of Al- 

vis, 68, 109, 183-194, 252, 283, 

. 546. 

Am, son of Dag, 223. 

Am'-bott, daughter of Thrall, 

Am'-ma, Grandmother, 204, 

207, 208. 
An, a dwarf, 6. 
And'-hrira-nir, a cook, 92. 
And"-var-a-naut', a ring, 114, 

361, 448. 
And'-var-i, a divarf, 8, 114, 

260, 343, 357-361, 417, 426, 

448, 493. 
An'-gan-tyr, a berserker, 225. 
An'-gan-tyr, a ivarrior, 2i8. 

220, 232. 
Ang'-eyj-a, mother of Heim- 

dall, 229. 
Angr'-both-a, a giantess, 17, 21, 

146, 196, 230, 231. 
Arf'-i, son of Jarl, 214. 
Ar"-in-nef'-ja, daughter of 

Thrall, 207. 
Arn'-grim, father of the ber- 
serkers, 225. 



Ar'-vak, a. horse, 99, 100, 394. 
As"-a-thor', Thor, 135. 
As', home of the gods, 3. 

11, 12, 141, 179, 186. 
Ask, Ash, 8. 
As'-Iaug, daughter of Brynhild, 

.353, 404,429- 

As'-mund, a giant (f), 104. 

Ath'-al, son of Jar I, 214. 

At'-la, mother of Heimdall, 229. 

At"-la-kvith'-a, the Lay of Atli, 
165, 255, 306, 421, 448, 463, 
476, 480-501, 515, 520, 522, 
530, 543- 

At"-la-mpr, the Ballad of Atli, 
448, 449. 463, 480-482, 485, 
487, 491, 494, 498-535, 538, 
540, 545, 548. 

At'-li, Attila, 8, 121, 290, 339, 
346, 361, 406, 418, 419, 422, 
430-432, 436-438, 447-451, 
456-459, 461-466, 468-470, 
472-478, 480-485, 487-489, 
491-502, 504, 506, 507, 513, 
514, 516-520, 522-538, 541, 

At'-Ii, son of Hring, 306. 

At'-li, son of Ithmund, 271, 
273-276, 278-281, 283, 284. 

At'-rith, Othin, 104. 

Aur'-both-a, a giantess, 109, 

Aur'-both-a, Mengloth's hand- 
maid, 249. 

Aur'-gelm-ir, Ymir, 76. 

Aur'-vang, a dwarf, 7. 

Austr'-i, a dwarf, 6. 

Auth, mother of Harald Battle- 
Tooth, 227. 
Auth'-a, sister of Agnar, 390, 

444, 445- 
Auth'-i, son of Halfdan the 
Old, 221, 485. 

Baldr, a god, i, 2, 14-16, 22, 25, 
82, 83, 90, 91, 114, i6i, 172, 
195-199, 218, 227, 228, 236, 
245, 360. 

Baldrs Draumar, B al dr's 
Dreams, 15, 19, 114, 174, 178, 
195-200, 236. 

Bal'-eyg, Othin, 103. 

Bar'-i, a dwarf, 247. 

Barn, son of Jarl, 214. 

Bar'-ri, a berserker, 225. 

Bar'-ri, a forest, 119, I20. 

Beit'-i, Atli's steward, 520. 

Bekk'-hild, sister of Brynhild, 

345, 346. 
Bel'-i, a giant, 22, no, 112. 
Ber'-a, Kostbera, 44% 510, 511, 

Ber'-gel-mir, a giant, 76, 78. 
Best'-la, Othin's mother, 4, 61, 

Beyl'-a, servant of Freyr, 152, 

»53, 169. 
Bif'-lind-i, Othin, 104. 
B if '-rest, the rainbow bridge, 

22, 90, 96, 102, 136, 329, 376. 
Bi'-fur, a dwarf, 6. 
Bik'-ki, follower of Jormunrek, 

439, 487, 488, 538, 551. 
Bil'-eyg, Othin, 103. 



Bil'-ling, a giant (?), 28, 46, 48. 
Bil'-rost, the rainboiu bridge, 

102, 376. 
Bil'-skirn-ir, Thor's divelling, 

88, 93. 
Bjort, Mengloth's handmaid, 

Blain, Ymir (?). 6. 
Bleik, Mengloth's handmaid, 

Blind, folloijoer of Hunding, 

Blith, Mengloth's handmaid, 

Bod'-di, son of Karl, 209. 
Bp'-fur, a diuarf, 6. 
Bolm, an island, 225. 
Bol'-thorn, Othin's grandfa- 
ther, 4, 61. 
Bol'-verk, Othin, 50, 52, 103. 
Bom'-bur, a diuarf, 6. 
B6nd'-i, son of Karl, 209. 
Borg'-ar, brother of Borg- 

hild (f), 334. 
Borg'-hild, mother of Helgi, 

270, 291, 293, 310, 333-335- 
Borg'-ny, daughter of Heithrek, 

469-473, 479. 
Both'-vild, daughter of Ni- 

thuth, 254, 258, 260, 261, 263, 

Brag'-a-lund, a forest, 314- 
Brag'-i, a god, 102, 152, 155- 

158, 228, 314, 394. 
Brag'-i, brother of Sigrun, 318, 


Brag'-i Bod'-da-son, a skald, 

Bra'-lund, birthplace of Helgi, 
291, 292, 310. 

Bram'-i, a berserker, 225. 

Brand'-ey, an island, 297. 

Bratt'-skegg, son of Karl, 209. 

Bra'-voll, a field, 303. 

Breith, son of Karl, 209. 

Breith'-a-blik, Baldr's home, 

Brim'-ir, a giant, 6, 16, 17, 394. 

Brim'-ir, a sivord, 102. 

Bris'-ings, the divarfs, 159, 177- 
179, 236. 

Brodd, follotver of Hrolf, 224. 

Brot af Sig"-urth-ar-kvith'-u, 
Fragment of a Sigurth Lay, 
15s, 370. 402-412, 420, 421, 
427-429. 448, 450-452, 486, 
493, 515, 539, 542, 547- 

Brun"-a-vag'-ar, a harbor, 313, 


Bruth, daughter of Karl, 210. 

Bryn'-hild, luife of Gunnar, 14, 
226, 234, 270, 296, 339, 344- 
347, 349-353, 362, 370, 371, 
383-388, 391, 396, 397, 400, 
403-408, 412, 417-419, 421- 
425. 427, 429-438, 442-448, 
457, 459. 460, 469, 470, 474- 
476, 481, 484, 511, 516, 518, 
532, 537. 543- 

Bu'-i, a berserker, 225. 

Bu'-i, son of Karl, 209. 

Bund"-in-skeg'-gi, son of Karl, 



Bur, father of Othin, 4, 160, 

Bur, son of Jarl, 214. 
Buth'-li, father of Atli, 296, 

339, 344, 346, 347, 37^, 385. 

388, 405, 406, 408, 417-419, 

425, 429, 430, 432, 437, 441, 

443, 459, 466, 474, 485, 487, 

488, 498, 512, 518, 521, 525, 

530, 532- 
Buth'-lungs, descendants of 

Buthli, 498. 
Bygg'-vir, Freyr's servant, 152, 

^53, 165, 166, 169. 
By'-leist (or By'-leipt), brother 

of Lokij 22, 230. 

Dag, a god (Day), 66, 75, 192. 
Dag, brother of Sigrun, 310, 

318, 319, 323, 324, 331. 
Dag, husband of Thora, 223, 

Dain, a dtjuarf, 6, 220. 
Dain, a hart, 98. 
Dain, an elf, 62. 
Dan, a king, 216. 
Dan'-a, daughter of Danp, 216. 
Danp, a king, 216, 484. 
Del'-ling, father of Day, 66, 75, 

Digr'-ald-i, son of Thrall, 206. 
Dog'-ling, Delling, 75. 
Dog'-lings, descendants of Dag, 

Dolg'-thras-ir, a divarf, 7. 
D6r'-i, a divarf, 8, 247. 
Drap Nifi'-ung-a, the Slaying 

of the Niflungs, 408, 438, 447- 
449, 461, 472, 477, 481, 482, 
485, 489, 494, 501, 539, 543. 

Draup'-nir, a divarf, 7. 

Draup'-nir, a ring, 114, 360. 

Dreng, son of Karl, 209. 

Drott, son of Thrall, 206. 

Drumb, son of Thrall, 206. 

Drumb'-a, daughter of Thrall, 

Duf, a divarf, 8. 

Dun'-eyr, a hart, 98. 

Dur'-in, a divarf, 6. 

Dval'-in, a divarf, 6, 7, 62, 188, 

Dval'-in, a hart, 98. 
Dyr'-a-thror, a hart, 98. 

Ed'-da, Great-Grandmother, 

204, 205. 
Egg'-ther, the giants' watch- 
man, 18. 
Eg'-il, brother of Folund, 254- 

257, 26s, 267. 
Eg'-il, father of Thjalfi (f), 

Eg"-ils-sag'-a, the Saga of 

Egil, 139. 
Eik"-in-skjald'-i, a divarf, 7, 8. 
Eik"-in-tjas'-na, daughter of 

Thrall, 207. 
Eik'-thyrn-ir, a hart, 94. 
Eir, Mengloth's handmaid, 248, 

Eist'-la, mother of Heimdall, 

Eit'-il, son of Atli, 448, 461. 



482, 495-498, 525. 540, 54i» 

Eld'-hrim-nir, a kettle, 92. 
Eld'-ir, JEgir's servant, 153, 

El"-i-vag'-ar, the Milky 

JVay (?), 76, 140. 
Emb'-la, Elm, 8. 
Ern'-a, ^uife of Jarl, 213, 214. 
Erp, son of Atli, 448, 461, 482, 

495-498, 525, 540, 541, 548. 
Erp, son of Jonak, 361, 439, 538, 

540, 546, 548, 550, 554- 
Ey'-fur-a, mother of the ber- 
serkers, 225. 
Eyj'-olf, son of Hunding, 295, 

316, 317. 
Ey'-lim-i, father of Hjordis, 

226, 270, 295, 335, 336, 340, 

341, 363, 365. 
Ey'-Hm-i, father of Svava, 277, 

284, 285, 287, 335. 
Ey'-moth, Atli's emissary, 456, 

Ey'-mund, king of Holmgarth, 

Eyr'-gjaf-a, mother of Heim- 

dall, 229. 

Faf'-nir, brother of Regin, 226, 
260, 273, 339, 345, 357, 3S9» 
,3^-365, 369-383, 38s, 412. 
4"2i, 431, 445, 448, 475, 476, 

Faf'-nls-mpl', the Ballad of 
Fafnir, 6, 7, 125, 151, 188, 
215, 226, 273, 343, 344, 356, 

357, 365, 369-388, 390, 402, 

411, 417, 445, 450, 474, 476, 

Fal'-hofn-ir, a horse, 96. 
Far'-baut-i, father of Loki, 157, 

Farm'-a-tyr, Othin, 104. 
Fath'-ir, Father, 204, 210. 
Feim'-a, daughter of Karl, 210. 
Feng, Othin, 366. 
Fen'-ja, a giantess, 436. 
Fenr'-ir, a wolf, 17-23, 81-83, 

91, 93, 100, 140, 146, 152, 164, 

165, 170, 196, 303. 
Fen'-sal-ir, Frigg's hall, 15. 
Fil'-i, a dwarf, 7. 
Fim'-a-feng, yEgir's servant, 

152, 153- 

Fim'-bul-thul, a river, 95. 

Fith, a dvjarf, 8. 

Fit'-jung, Earth, 43, 44. 

Fjal'-ar, a cock, 18, 19, 243. 

Fjal'-ar, a divarf, 8. * 

Fjal'-ar, Suttung (?), 32. 

Fjal'-ar, Utgartha-Loki (f), 

Fjol'-kald, Svipdag's grand- 
father, 240. 

Fjol'-nir, Othin, 103, 366. 

Fjol"-svinns-m9l', the Ballad 
of Fjolsvith, 234, 239-251. 

Fjol'-svith, Mengloth's watch- 
man, 234, 239-250. 

Fjol'-svith, Othin, 103. 

Fjol'-var, a giant (f), 127. 

Fjon, an island, 455. 

Fjorg'-yn, Jorth, 23, 24, 136. 



Fjorg'-yn, Othin, 24, 160. 

Fjorm, a river, 95. 

Fjorn'-ir, Gunnar's cupbearer, 

Fjors'-ungs, the fishes (?), 321. 

Fj6sn'-ir, son of Thrall, 206. 

Fjot'-ur-Iund, a forest, 323. 

Fljoth, daughter of Karl, 210. 

Folk'-vang, Freyja's home, 90, 

For'-set-i^ a god, 91, 228. 

F6st"-brorth-ra-sag'-a, the Saga 
of the Foster-Brothers, 46. 

Fra Dauth'-a Sinf'-jotl-a, Of 
Sinfjotli's Death, 270, 293, 
295, 302, 332-337, 340, 342, 
356, 357. 359. 365, 368, 374, 
386, 388, 421, 454, 455. 

Fraeg, a d<warf, 7. 

Fran'-ang, a ivaterfall, 172, 

Fjan'-mar, Sigrlin's foster- 
father, 273, 275, 

Frar, a dwarf, 7. 

Frath'-mar, son of Dag, 223. 

Frek'-a-stein, a battlefield, 287, 
288, 304, 307, 318, 319. 322. 

Frek'-i, a ivolf, 92, 295. 

Frek'-i, son of Dag, 223. 

Frey'-ja, a goddess, 10-12, 22, 
90, 91, 102, 108, 128, 152, 157- 
159, 161-163, 175-177, 180, 
181, 217-220, 231-233, 236, 

Freyr, a god, 10, 22, 88, 91, 
loi, 107-110, 112-115, 117. 

119, 120, 152, 161-166, 169, 
175, 220, 228, 284, 308, 428. 

Fri'-aut, daughter of Hildigun, 
222, 223. 

Frigg, a goddess, 14, 15, 22, 68, 
29, 86, 89, 91, 151, 152, 157- 
161, 182, 196, 236, 248, 472. 

Frith, Mengloth's handmaid, 

Frost'-i, a dwarf, 8. 

Froth'-i, a Danish king, 294, 

295. 436- 
Froth'-i, father of Hledis, 222. 
Froth'-i, father of Kari (?), 

Ful'-la, Frigg's handmaid, 86. 
Ful'-nir, son of Thrtell, 206. 
Fund'-in, a dwarf, 7. 

Gagn'-rath, Othin, 68, 70-72. 
Gand'-alf, a dwarf, 7. 
Gang, brother of Thjazi, 128. 
Gang'-ler-i, King Gylfi, 94. 
Gang'-ler-i, Othin, 103. 
Garm, a hound, 19, 21, 24, 102, 

140, 196. 
Gast'-ropn-ir, Mengloth's 

dwelling, 242. 
Gaut, Othin, 105. 
Gef -jun, a goddess, 157-159. 
Geir'-mund, kinsman of Atli, 

Geir'-on-ul, a Valkyrie, 99. 
Geir'-roth, a king, 84-87, 104- 

Geir'-skog-ul, a Valkyrie, 14. 
Geir'-vim-ul, a river, 95. 



Geit'-ir, Gripir's servant, 340- 


Ger'-i, a hound, 244. 

Ger'-i, a luolf, 92, 295. 

Gerth, daughter of Gymir, 109, 
111-115, 119, 120, 152, 165, 

Gif, a hound, 244. 

Gim'-le, a mountain, 26. 

Gin'-nar, a d'ivarf, 8. 

Gin"-nung-a-gap', Yaivning 
Gap, 4, 77. 

Gip'-ul, a river, 95. 

Gisl, a horse, 96. 

Gjaf'-Iaug, Gjuki's sister, 413. 

Gjal"-lar-horn', Heimdall's 
horn, 12, 20. 

Gjol, a river, 95. 

Gjolp, mother of Heimdall, 

Gjuk'-i, father of Gunnar, 226, 
343, 344, 348, 352-354, 362, 
383, 403, 406, 407, 410, 411, 
413, 415-418, 421-423, 426, 
429, 444, 446-448, 451, 452, 
459, 462, 466, 470, 476, 477, 
480, 482, 499, 500, 509, 516, 
517, 529, 535, 541, 542, 546, 
552, 553- 
Gjuk'-i, son of Hogni, 449. 
Gjuk'-ungs, Gjuki's sons, 344, 
383, 388, 403, 408, 421, 426, 
431, 446, 448, 449, 451, 456, 
457, 476, 477, 483, 484, 500, 
Glap'-svith, Othin, 103. 
Glas'-ir, a forest, 274. 

Glath, a horse, 96. 

Glaths'-heim, Othin's divelling, 

Glaum, Atli's horse, 493. 

Glaum'-vor, ivife of Gunnar, 
448, 500, 502, 507, 508, 510, 

Gleip'-nir, a chain, 17. 

Gler, a horse, 96. 

Glit'-nir, Forseti's divelling, 91. 

Gl5'-in, a dwarf, 7. 

Gnip"-a-her-lir, a cave, 19, 21, 

Gnip'-a-lund, a forest, 300, 
301, 303, 306. 

Gnit'-a-heith, Fafnir's moun- 
tain, 343, 365, 371, 484- 

Go'-in, a serpent, 98. 

Gol, a Valkyrie, 99. 

Gol"-lin-kamb'-i, a cock, 19, 

243, 329- 

Goll'-nir, a giant (?), 303. 

GoH'-rond, daughter of Gjuki, 
414-416, 418. 

Goll'-topp, a horse, 96, 97. 

Goll'-veig, a Wane, 10. 

Gom'-ul, a river, 95. 

Gond'-lir, Othin, 104. 

Gond'-ul, a Valkyrie, 14. 

Gop'-ul, a river, 95. 

Gorm (the Old), King of Den- 
mark, 201, 202. 

Goth'-mund, son of Granmar, 
290, 3CX3-305, 309, 316-318, 
321, 322, 332. 

Got'-thorra, slayer of Sigurth, 

[565 J 


226, 350, 354, 361, 405, 410, 
426-428,453, 533. 

Gra'-bak, a serpent, 98. 

Graf'-vit-nir, a serpent, 98. 

Graf'-vol-luth, a serpent, 98. 

Gram, Sigurth's sivord, 351, 
365, 378, 427, 428. 

Gran'-i, Sigurth's horse, 259, 
260, 303, 342, 344, 350, 358, 
359. 38s, 395, 403, 406, 417, 
431, 432, 445, 446, 452, 476. 

Gran'-mar, father of Hoth- 
brodd, 291, 296, 300, 304, 308, 
316-322, 332. 

Greip, mother of Heimdall, 

Gret'-tir, a hero, 64. 

Gret"-tis-sag'-a, the Saga of 
Grettir, 129. 

Grim, follower of Hrolf, 224. 

Grim, Othin, 103. 

Grim'-hild, ^wife of Gjtiki, 226, 
349, 350, 354, 403, 405, 436, 
448, 455-457, 459-461, 474, 
519, 524, 526. 

Grim'-nir, Othin, 84, 86, 87, 
103, 104. 

Grim"-nis-mpl, the Ballad of 
Grimnir, 4, 5, 9, 12, 14, 17- 
20, 62, 68, 75, 84-108, 122, 
130, 136, 138, 139, 152, 17s, 
179, 180, 196, 203, 221, 230, 
234, 237, 253, 302, 303, 323, 
329, 366, 376, 378, 384, 394, 
472, 487, 494. 

Grip'-ir, Sigurth's uncle, 337, 

Grip"-is-sp9', Gripir's Proph- 
ecy, 14, 87, 226, 336-359, 365, 
371, 383, 386, 388, 403, 404, 
406, 409, 412, 417, 418, 421, 
422, 429, 440-442, 446, 447, 
450, 451, 456, 469, 481, 484, 
499, 518, 536. 

Gro'-a, mother of Svipdag, 234- 
236, 238. 

Grgth, a river, 95. 

Grot"-ta-songr', the Song of 
Grotti, 436. 

Grot'-ti, a mill, 436. 

Gr6"-u-galdr', Groa's Spell, 

Gull'-fax-i, a horse, 126. 

GuH"-in-tan'-ni, Heimdall, 97. 

Gung'-nir, a spear, loi, 395. 

Gun'-nar, brother of Borg- 
hild (?), 334. 

Gun'-nar, folloiver of Hrolf, 

Gun'-nar, son of Gjuki, 8, 226, 
339, 343, 349-354, 361, 383, 
403-405, 407-409, 414, 417- 
419, 421-424, 426, 427, 429- 
434, 436-38, 442, 447-449, 453, 
456, 457, 459-46t, 467, 469, 
470, 473-479, 482-486, 488- 
494, 497-500, 502, 507-509- 
513, 517-519, 521, 522, 532, 
533, 539, 541, 543, 546-548- 

Gunn'-loth, daughter of Sut- 
tung, 28, 32, 50-52. 

Gunn'-thor-in, a river, 95. 

Gunn'-thro, a river, 9?. 

[566 J 


Gust, Andvari (f),3S7, S^i- 

Guth, a Valkyrie, 14, 314. 

Guth'-run, nvife of Sigurth, 226, 
339, 343, 344, 349, 352-354, 
383, 388, 403-407, 410-417, 
419, 421-424, 428, 429, 433, 
436-439, 442, 446-451, 453, 
455-457, 459-466, 468, 470, 
477, 480, 482, 485, 493-501, 
513, 515, 516, 518, 519, 522- 
544, 546-550, 552. 

Guth"-run-ar-hvot', Guthrun's 
Inciting, 226, 410, 411, 439, 
447, 450, 497, 535-547, 549, 
551, 555- 

Guth"-run-ar-kvith'-a I (en 
Fyrst'-a), the First Lay of 
Guthrun, 4, 293, 325, 402, 
409, 411-420, 422, 423, 426, 
429, 430, 450, 452-454, 475, 

Guth"-run-ar-kvith'-a II (On'- 
nur, en Forn'-a), the Second 
(Old) Lay of Guthrun, 230, 
255, 325, 407, 410-412, 416, 
419, 450-465, 467, 476, 493, 
495, 496, 501, 505- 

Guth"- run - ar - kvith' - a III 
(Thrith'-ja), the Third Lay 
of Guthrun, 450, 451, 465- 
469, 517- 

Gylf"-a-gin'-ning, the Deceiv- 
ing of Gylfi, 120, 228, 229, 
231, 248, 370. 

Gyl'-lir, a horse, 96. 

Gym'-ir, Mgir, 151. 


Gym'-ir, a giant, 109, iii, 112, 

114, 165, 228. 
Gyrth, son of Dag, 223. 

Had'-ding, a Danish king, 311, 

Had"- ding -ja - skat'- i, H ad- 
dings' -Hero (Helgi), 311, 

330, 331. 
Had'-dings, berserkers, 225. 
Haera'-ing, son of Hunding, 311. 
Hag'-al, Helgi's foster-father, 

Hak'-i, son of Hvethna, zzy. 
Hal, son of Karl, 209. 
Half, King of Horthaland, 222, 

Half-dan, father of Kara, 316, 

Half-dan (the Old), a Danish 

king, 221-223, 227, 269, 307, 

308, 364, 454, 
Halfs'-sag-a, the Saga of Half, 

222, 223. 
Ham'-al, son of Hagal, 311, 

Ham'-ther, son of Jonak, 361, 

439, 447, 536-541, 545-550, 

Ham"-thes-m9r, the Ballad of 

Hamther, 226, 410, 439, 447, 

450, 488, 536-540, 545-555- 
Ha'-mund, son of Sigmund, 

293, 334- 
Han'-nar, a divarf, 7. 
Har, Othin, 94, 103. 


Har'-ald (Battle-Tooth), son 
of Hrorek, 227. 

Har'-ald (Blue-Tooth), King 
of Denmark, 201, 202. 

Har'-barth, Othin, 104, 121, 
122, 125-137. 

Har"-barths-ljoth', the Poem of 
Harbarth, 12, 24, 104, 121- 
140, 142, 143, 152, 167, 168, 
170, 171, 174, 175, 185, 195, 
228, 314, 394, 443, 478, 480. 

Hat'-a-fjord, a fjord, 278. 

Hat'-i, a giant, 278, 280, 281. 

Hat'-i, a ivolf, 18, 100. 

Haug'-spor-i, a divarf, 7. 

Heer'-fath-er, Othin, 13, 14, 69, 
92, 94, 218, 390. 

Heim'-dall, a god, 3, 12, 18, 20, 
90, 97, "5, 166, 167, 178, 202, 
203, 213, 228-230. 

Heim'-ir, Brynhild's foster-fa- 
ther, 345-348, 350, 351, 353, 
403, 404, 445- 

Heith, daughter of Hrimnir, 

Heith, Golliveg (?), to. 

Heith'-draup-nir, Mimir (f), 

393, 394- 

Heith'-rek, father of Borgny, 

Heith'-run, a goat, 94, 232. 

Hel, goddess of the dead, 16, 
17, 19, 20, 22, 93, 95, 97, 115, 
118, 146, 196, 231, 237, 245, 
377, 441-443, 518, 551. 

Hel'-blind-i, Othin, 103. 

Helg"-a-kvith'-a Hjor"-varths- 

son'-ar, the Lay of Helgi the 
Son of Hjorvarth, 14, 189, 
269-290, 292, 293, 29s, 298, 
300, 302, 304, 309, 313, 318, 
332, 358, 359, 371, 506. 

Helg"-a-kvith'-a Hund"-ings- 
ban'-a I (en Fyr'-ri), the 
First Lay of Helgi Hundings- 
bane, 14, 160, 215, 221, 273, 
276, 281, 287, 290-308, 310, 
311, 313, 316-319, 321, 322, 
328, 358, 364-366, 428, 524. 

Helg"-a-kvith'-a Hund"-ings- 
ban'-a H (On'-nur), the Sec- 
ond Lay of Helgi Hundings- 
bane, 95, 272, 288, 289, 294, 
296, 298, 306, 309-331, 366, 
418, 434, 466, 543- 

Helg'-i (Had"-ding-ja-skat'-i), 
Helgi the Haddings -Hero, 
311, 330, 331. 

Helg'-i, Hjalmgunnar (?), 344, 

Helg'-i, son of Hjorvarth, 269- 
272, 276-289, 310, 311, 330, 

331, 335- 

Helg'-i, son of Sigmund, 221, 
269, 270, 276, 289-301, 304, 
306-336, 339, 340, 357, 358, 
364-366, 368, 371, 446. 

Hel'-reith Bryn'-hild-ar, Bryn- 
hild's Hell-Ride, 129, 255, 
345, 346, 353, 387, 388, 390, 
442-447,450, 5"- 

Hept"-i-fir-i, a divarf, 7. 

Her'-borg, queen of the Huns, 



Her'-fjot-ur, a Valkyrie, 99. 
Her'-jan, Othin, 14, 103, 416. 
Herk'-ja, Atli's servant, 465, 

466, 468. 
Her'-moth, son of Othin, 218. 
Hers'-ir, father of Erna, 213. 
Her'-teit, Othin, 103. 
Her"-var-ar-sag'-a, the Saga 

of Hervor, 366, 484. 
Her'-varth, a berserker, 225. 
Her'-varth, son of Hunding, 

316, 317- 
Her'-vor, a sivan-maiden, 254- 

256, 259. 
Heth'-in, brother of Helgi, 271- 

273, 284-286, 288, 289. 
Heth'-ins-ey, an island, 297. 
Hild, a Valkyrie, 14, 99. 
Hild, Brynhild, 444, 511. 
Hild, mother of King Half, 

223, 224. 
Hild'-i-gun, daughter of Sako- 

nung, 222, 223. 
Hild"-i-svin'-i, a boar, 220. 
Hild'-olf, a warrior, 124. 
Him'-in-bjorg, Heimdall's 

diuelling, 90. 
Him"-in-vang'-ar, Heaven'S' 

Field, 293. 
Hind'-ar-fjoll, Brynhil d's 

mountain, 383, 384, 388, 445. 
Hjal'-li, Atli's cook, 491, 492, 

520, 521. 
Hjalm'-ar, a ivarrior, 225. 
Hjalm'-ber-i, Othin, 103. 
Hjalm'-gun-nar, a Gothic king, 

345. 390, 445- 

Hjalp'-rek, father of A If, 335, 

336, 358, 359, 365, 369, 454- 
Hjor'-dis, mother of Sigurth, 

226, 270, 277, 293, 333, 335, 

336, 340, 341, 368, 374, 454. 
Hjor'-leif, father of King Half, 

Hjor'-leif, follower of Helgi, 

Hjor'-varth, a berserker, 225. 
Hjor'-varth, father of Helgi, 

269-274, 276-278, 284, 287, 

289, 331. 
Hjor'-varth, father of Hvethna, 

Hjor'-varth, son of Hunding, 

273, 29s, 316, 317. 368. 
Hlath'-guth, a s<wan- maiden, 

Hle'-barth, a giant, 128. 
Hle'-bjorg, a mountain, 319, 

Hle'-dis, mother of Ottar, 222. 
Hler, /Egir, 132, 152. 
Hles'-ey, an island, 132, 139, 

314, 478. 
Hle'-vang, a dwarf, 7. 
Hlif, Mengloth's handmaid, 

Hlif'-thras-a, Mengloth's hand- 
maid, 248. 
Hlin, Frigg, 22. 
Hlith'-skjolf, Othin's seat, 86, 

88, 107, io8, 480, 487. 

Hlokk, a Valkyrie, 99. 
Hl6r'-rith-i, Thor, 135, 140, 

[569 J 


H3, 147. 149. 169, 176, 178, 

nioth'-varth, follower of 

Helffi, 280. 
Hloth'-ver, a Prankish king, 

Hloth'-ver, father of Hervor, 

254-256, 259. 
Hloth'-yn, Jorth, 23. 
Hlym'-dal-ir, Brynhild's home, 

Hnifl'-ung, son of Hogni, 498, 

515. 529- 
Hnifl'-ungs, the people of Gjuki 

(Nibelungs), 291, 305. 
Hnik'-ar, Othin, 103, 357, 366, 

Hnik'-uth, Othin, 103, 104, 
Hp'-alf, a Danish king, 437, 

Hp'-alf, King Half of Hortha- 

land, 223, 224. 
Hp'-brok, a hawk, 102. 
Hodd'-mim-ir, Mimir, 80. 
Hodd'-rof-nir, Mimir (f), 393, 

Hog'-ni, brother of Sigar, 312, 


Hog'-ni, father of Sigrun, 296, 
306, 308, 312, 313, 3i6-3i9» 
323, 328, 329. 

Hog'-ni, son of Gjuki, 226, 343, 
350, 354, 361, 404-406, 421, 
425-427, 429, 431, 434, 447- 
449. 453, 456, 457, 459-46i, 
467, 469, 472, 476, 477. 482, 
484-487, 490-93, 498-500, 502- 

506, 509, 511, 512, 514, 515, 

517-521, 523, 529-533, 539. 

541, 543, 546-548. 
Hpk'-on, father of Thora, 419, 

454, 455- 
Hoi, a river, 95. 
Holm'-garth, Russia, 222. 
Holth, son of Karl, 209. 
Hon'-ir, a god, 8, 20, 25, 162, 

358, 359, 493. 
Hpr, a dwarf, 7. 
Hpr, Othin, 10, 51-53, 60, 103. 
Horn, a river, 237. 
Horn'-bor-i, a dwarf, 7. 
Horth'-a-land, Half's kingdom, 

222, 223. 
H6rv'-ir, follower of Hrolf, 

Hos'-vir, son of Thrall, 206. 
Hoth, slayer of Baldr, 15, 25, 

161, 198, 228. 
Hoth'-brodd, son of Granmar, 

269, 270, 291, 296, 297, 301, 

304-306, 309, 316, 317, 319. 

321, 322. 
Hp'-tun, Helgi's home, 293, 298. 
H9v"-a-m9r, the Ballad of the 

High One, 4, 28-68, 71, 75, 

112, 117, 130, 188, 193, 205, 

215, 236, 237, 247, 357, 367, 

368, 379, 387, 393, 397. 
Hp'-varth, son of Hunding, 

Hrje'-svelg, an eagle, 21, 78, 

Hran'-i, a berserker, 22$. 



Hrauth'-ung, ancestor of Hjor- 

dis, 226. 
Hrauth'-ung, father of Geir- 

roth, 85. 
Hreim, son of Thrall, 206. 
Hreith'-mar, father of Regin, 7, 

357-359. 361-363. 
Hrim'-fax-i, a horse, 72. 
Hrim'-gerth, a giantess, 189, 

«7i, 278-283. 
Hrim"-gerth-a-m9r, the Ballad 

of Hrimgerth, z-ji, 278-284. 
Hrim'-grim-nir, a giant, 118. 
Hrim'-nir, a giant, 115, 228. 
Hring, a ivarrior, 306, 307. 
Hring'-stath-ir, Ringsted, 293, 

Hring'-stoth, Ringsted (?), 293. 
Hrist, a Valkyrie, 99. 
Hrith, a river, 95, 237. 
Hro'-ar, brother of Borghild 

(?). 334. 
Hrolf (the Old), King of 

Gautland, 224. 
Hrol'-laug, a ivarrior, 319, 320. 
Hro'-mund, a luarrior, 331. 
Hro'-mund-ar Sag'-a Greips'- 

son-ar, the Saga of Hromund 

Greipsson, 311, 331. 
Hron, a river, 95, 237. 
Hropt, Othin, 25, 166, 393. 
Hropt'-a-tyr, Othin, 66, 105. 
Hro'-rek, King of Denmark, 

Hross'-thjof, son of Hrimnir, 


Hroth, a giant, 142. 
Hroth'-mar, lover of Sigrlin, 

275, 276, 278, 286. 
Hroth'-vit-nir, Fenrir, 100, 164. 
Hrot'-ti, a sivord, 385. 
Hrung'-nir, a giant, 125, 126, 

143, 171, 172, 394- 

Hrym, a giant, 21. 

Hug'-ib, a raven, 92. 

Hum'-lung, son of Hjorvarih, 
272, 273. 

Hund'-ing, enemy of Sigmund, 
269, 270, 273, 294, 295, 307, 
309-311, 313, 315, 316, 326, 
335, 336, 342, 343, 357, 358, 
365, 368, 369. 

Hund'-land, Hunding's king- 
dom, 294, 310, 311. 

Hver'-gel-mir, a spring, 94. 

Hveth'-na, mother of Haki, zzj. 

Hym'-ir, a giant, 77, 138-150, 

Hym"-is-kvith'-a, the Lay of 
Hymir, 21, 77, 116, 122, 138- 
152, 163, 170, 174, 179, 180, 
i8a, 183, 391. 

Hym'-ling, son of Hjorvarth, 

Hynd'-la, a giantess, 217-220, 
222, 231-233. 

Hynd"-lu-lj5th', the Poem of 
Hyndla, 115, 132, 154, 167, 
203, 217-233, 273, 292, 307, 
314, 350, 427, 454, 457. 


If'-ing, a river, 72, 131. 

Im, son of Vafthruthnir, 70. 


Imth, a giant, 304. 

Imth, mother of Heimdall, 229. 

Ing'-un, sister of Njorth (?), 

Ing'-un-ar=Freyr, Freyr, 165. 
In'-stein, father of Ottar, 220, 

222, 224. 
Ir'-i, a d<warf, z/^rj, 
Is'-olf, son of Olmoth, 224. 
Is'-ung, a ivarrior, 297. 
Ith'-a-voll, meeting-place of 

the gods, 5, 24. 
Ith'-i, brother of Thjazi, 128. 
Ith'-mund, follo'U'er of Hjor- 

varth, 273, 274. 
Ith'-un, a goddess, 102, 113, 

128, 152, 157, 158, 175. 
I'-vald-i, a dwarf, loi. 
I'-var, King of Siveden, 227. 

Jafn'-hpr, Othin, 103, 104. 
Jalk, Othin, 104, 105. 
Jar'-i, a dwarf, 7, 247. 
Jar'-iz-leif, Atli's emissary, 

456, 457- 
Jar'-iz-skar, Atli's emissary, 

4S6» 457. 

Jarl, son of Rig, 212-215. 

Jarn'-sax-a, a giantess, 125. 

Jarn'-sax-a, mother of Heim- 
dall, 229. 

Jof'-ur-mar, son of Dag, 223. 

J6n'-ak, father of Hamther, 
439. 447. 536, 538, 542. 546, 
548. 550. 553- 

Jor'-inun-rek, Ermanarich, 225, 

««6, 339. 407. 437. 439, 447, 

451, 538-540, 546, 549, 551- 

Jorth, Earth, 12, 23, 24, 123, 

136, 170, 174, 175, 389. 
Joth, son of Jarl, 21/^. 
Jot'-un-heim, the world of the 

giants, 3, 5, 6, 21, 107, iii, 

128, 179-181, 186. 

Kar'-a, daughter of Half dan, 
272, 310, 311, 314, 316, 330, 

331, 345- 

Kar'-i, ancestor of Ketil, 224. 

Karl, son of Rig, 208, 209. 

Kai'"-u-lj6th', the Poem of 
Kara, 272, 311, 314, 315, 331. 

Kef-sir, son of Thrall, 206. 

Ker'-laug, a river, 96. 

Ket'-il Horth'-a=Kar'-i, hus- 
band of Hildigun, 223, 224 

Kil'-i, a dwarf, 7. 

Kjal'-ar, Othin, 104. 

Kjar, father of Olrun, 254-256, 

Kleg'-gi, son of Thrall, 206. 

Klur, son of Thrall, 206. 

Klypp, father of Ketil, 223. 

Kne'-froth, Atli's messenger, 

448, 482, 483, 502. 
Kolg'-a, daughter of ^gir, 

Kon, son of Rig, 201, 209, 21a 

214, 215. 

236, 256, 306. 
Kormt, a river, 96. 
Kost'-ber-a, wife of Hognt, 

449, 500, 502-506, 510. 



Kumb'-a, daughter of Thrall, 

Kund, son of Jar I, 214. 

LS'-gjarn, Loki, 245. 
L»'-rath, Yggdrasil, 94. 
Ljev'-a-tein, a siuord, 245. 
Lauf'-ey, mother of Loki, 9, 

157, 168, 177-179- 
Leg'-gjald-i, son of Thrall, 

Leipt, a river, 95, 323. 
Leir'-brim-ir, Ymir (?), z/^z. 
Lett'-fet-i, a horse, 96. 
Lif, mother of the neiv race, 80. 
Lif'-thras-ir, father of the neiv 

race, 80. 
Lim'-a-fjord, a fjord, 501, 510. 
Lit, a diuarf, 7 . 
Lj6th'-a-tal, the List of 

Charms, 28, 44, 60, 63, 236. 
Lodd'-faf-nir, a singer, 28, 52- 

59, 67. 
Lodd"-faf-nis-m9r, the Ballad 

of Loddfafnir, 28, 67, 387, 

Lof'-ar, a dijjarf, 7, 8. 
Lofn'-heith, daughter of 

Hreithmar, 363. 
Log'-a-fjoll, a mountain, 294, 

295. 316, 317. 
Lok"-a-sen'-na, Loki's Wran- 
gling, 4, 16, 26, 102, 107, 130, 

134, 139, 151-175, 177, 178, 
i8o, 184, 196, 218, 228, 232, 
236, 256, 306. 

Lok'-i, a god, i, 8, 9, 11, 15-17, 
21, 22, 25, loi, 102, 128, 130, 

134, 146, 149-173. 175-179. 

196, 198, 200, 228, 230-232, 

245-247, 303, 357-362, 417, 

L6n'-i, a divarf, 7. 
Lopt, Loki, 154, 231, 245. 
Loth'-in, a giant, ziz. 
L6th'-ur, Loki, 8, 9, 154. 
Lut, son of Thrall, 206. 
Lyf'-ja-berg, a mountain, 248, 

Lyng'-heith, daughter of 

Hreithmar, 363, 364. 
Lyng'-vi, son of Hunding, 336, 

368, 369. 
Lyr, Mengloth's hall, 247. 

Mag'-ni, son of Thor, 82, 125, 

Man'-i, Moon, 74, 75, 99. 
Meil'-i, brother of Thor, 125. 
Meln'-ir, a horse, 306. 
Men'-gloth, beloved of Svip- 

dag, ZS4.-2S6, 238, 239, 241, 

248-251, 350, 388, 441. 
Men'-ja, a giantess, 436. 
Mim (or Mim'-ir), a ixjater- 

spirit, 12, 13, 20, 6i, 81, 242, 

393, 394- 
Mim'-a-meith, Yggdrasil, 242, 

Mim'-ir, brother of Regin, 359. 
Mist, a Valkyrie, 99, 305. 



Mith'-garth, the ivorld of men, Myrk'-wood, a forest in Nith- 

3, 4, 92, 100, loi, 129, 186, 

221, 223. 
Mith"-garths-orra', a serpent, 

17, 21, 23, 24, 122, 139, 14s, 

146, 170, 196, 230. 
Mith'-vit-nir, a giant, 104. 
Mjoll'-nir, Thor's hammer, 82, 

126, 149, 169-171, 174, 181. 
Mjoth'-vit-nir, a divarf, 6, 7. 
Mog, son of Jarl, 214. 
Mog'-thras-ir, a giant (?), 82. 
M6'-in, a serpent, 98. 
Mo"-ins-heim'-ar, a battlefield, 

304, 322. 
Morn'-a-land, an eastern coun- 
try, 470. 
M6th'-i, son of Thor, 82, 148. 
M6th'-ir, mother of Jarl, 204, 

Mot'-sog-nir, a divarf, 6. 
Mund"-il-fer'-i, father of Sol, 

5. 74. 99- 
Mun'-in, a raven, 92. 
Mu'-spell, father of the fire- 
dive Hers, 22, 165. 
Mu'-spells-heim, home of the 

fire-divellers, 3, 21, 73, loo. 
Myln'-ir, a horse, 306. 
Myrk'-heim, Myrkivood (Atli's 

land), 498. 
Myrk'-wood, a forest in Atli's 

land, 476, 483, 484, 487, 498. 
Myrk'-wood, a forest in H«th- 

brodd's land, 306. 
Myrk'-wood, a forest in Mus- 

pellsheim, 165. 

uth's land, 255, 256. 

Nab'-bi, a divarf, 220. 

Nagl'-far, a ship, 21. 

Nain, a divarf, 6. 

Nal, Laufey, 168. 

Nal'-i, a divarf, 7. 

Nan'-na, daughter of Nokkvi, 

Nan'-na, ivife of Baldr, 91. 
Nar, a divarf, 6. 
Narf'-i, Nor, 75, 192. 
Narf'-i, son of Loki, i6, 167, 

172, 173. 
Na'-strond, Corpse-Strand, 17. 
Nep, father of Nanna, 91. 
Ner'-i, a giant (?), 292. 
Nifl'-heim, the ivorld of the 

dead, 3, 94. 
Nifl'-hel, land of the dead, 80, 

Nifl'-ungs, the people of Gjuki 

(Nibelungs), 408, 447, 448, 

486, 487, 489, 492, 493, 515, 

517, 541- 
Nip'-ing, a divarf, 6. 
Nith, son of Jarl, 214. 
Nith'-a-fjoll, a mountain, 16, 

26, 27. 
Nith"-a-ver-lir, home of the 

divarfs, 3, 16. 
Nith'-hogg, a dragon, 17, 26, 

27, 97-99. 
NIth'-i, a divarf, 6. 
Nith'-jung, son of Jarl, 214. 

I 5741 


Nith'-uth, king of the Njars, 

253-255. 257-268. 
Njals'-sag-a, the Saga of Njal, 

Njars, the people of Nithuth, 

254, 257, 259, 265, 268. 
Njorth, a Wane, 9, 10, 78, 79, 

90, 91, loi, 107, 108, 119, 120, 
128, 152, 161-163, 165, 167, 
175, 179, i8o, 228. 

N6'-a-tun, home of Njorth, 90, 

91, 108, 179, 180. 
Nokk'-vi, father of Nanna, 224. 
Non, a river, 95. 

Nor (or Norv'-i), father of 

Not, 75, 192. 
N6r'-i, a divarf, 6. 
Norn"-a-gests-thattr', the Story 

of Nornagest, 336, 356, 364, 

369, 442, 444, 445. 
North'-ri, a divarf, 6. 
Not, a river, 95. 
Njt, Night, 66, 75, 192, 389. 
Ny'-i, a divarf, 6. 
Nyr, a dwarf, 7. 
Ny'-rath, a divarf, 7. 
Nyt, a river, 95. 

Odd'-run, sister of Atli, 420, 
438, 448, 449, 469-474, 476, 
478, 479- 

Odd"-run-ar-gratr', the Lament 
of Oddrun, 132, 420, 438, 447, 

449, 450, 469-479, 483, 494, 

522, 532. 
Ofn'-ir, a serpent, 98. 
Ofn'-ir, Othin, 105. 

6'-in, father of Andvari, 360. 
Okk"-vin-kalf'-a, daughter of 

Thrall, 207. 
O'-kol-nir, a volcano (f), 16. 
Ol'-moth, father of Isolf, 224. 
Ol'-run, a sivan-matden, 254- 

. 257, 485- 
Om'-i, Othin, 104. 
On'-ar, a divarf, 6. 
Or'-i, a divarf, 8, 247. 
Ork'-ning, brother of Kostbera, 

449, 509, 510, 517- 
Ormt, a river, 96. 
Orv'-and-il, husband of Groa, 


Orv'-ar=Odd, a warrior, 225. 

Orv'-ar=Odds'-sag-a, the Saga 
of Orvar-Odd, 225. 

Orv'-a-sund, a bay, 298. 

Osk'-i, Othin, 104. 

O'-skop-nir, an island, 376. 

Os'-olf, son of Olmoth, 224. 

0th, husband of Freyja, 11, 12, 
161, 220, 232. 

Oth'-in, chief of the gods, i, 3, 
4, 8-15, 19-26, 28, 32, 45, 48- 
53, 60-63, 66, 68-84, 86, 88, 
89. 91, 92, 94, 97, 98, loi- 
106, 108, 114, 117, 121, 122, 
125, 126, 129, 131, 133, 134, 
136, 139-141, 145, 149, 151, 
152, 155, 157-160, 166, 167, 
170, 174, 179, 182, 185, 195- 
200, 202, 203, 213, 218, 219, 
221, 226, 228-231, 236, 274, 
293-295, 302, 308, 319, 323- 
327, 330, 332, 335, 339. 342, 



357-359. 361. 365, 366, 371. 
372, 384, 390, 393-395, 416, 
428, 445, 474, 483, 487, 493, 

494, 553- 
Oth'-lings, a mythical race, 221, 

223, 226. 
Oth'-ror-ir, a goblet, 51, 61. 
Otr, brother of Regin, 358, 359, 
_ 362. 
Ot'-tar, a ivarrior, 217-227, 


Rffiv'-il, a sea-king, 366. 
Rag'-nar Loth'-brok, a Danish 

king, 366. 
Rand'-grith, a Valkyrie, 99. 
Rand'-ver, son of Jormunrek, 

439, 538, 551. 
Rand'-ver, son of Rathbarth, 

Ran'-i, Othin, 2^6. 
Rat'-a-tosk, a squirrel, 97. 
Rath'-barth, a Russian king, 

Rath'-grith, a Valkyrie, 99. 
Raths'-ey, an island, 124. 
Rath'-svith, a divarf, 7. 
Rat'-i, a gimlet, 50. 
Reg'-in, a divarf, 7, 359. 
Reg'-in, son of Hreithmar, 7, 

343, 356-359, 361-366, 369- 

372, 377-383, 403. 
Reg'-in-leif, a Valkyrie, 99. 
Reg"-ins-m9r, the Ballad of 

Regin, 7, 8, 114, 151, 270, 295, 

308, 333, 336, 342, 343, 356- 

371, 376, 378, 384, 386, 387, 

402, 411, 426, 428, 448, 450, 

493, 538. 
Reif '-nir, a berserker, 225. 
Rig, Heimdall (f), 3, 201-204, 

207, 208, 210-212, 215, 216. 
Rigs'-thul-a, the Song of Rig, 

3, 90, 167, 183, 201-216, 230, 

428, 484. 
Rin, a river, 95. 
Rind, mother of Vali, 198, 236. 
Rin'-nand-i, a river, 95. 
Rist'-il, daughter of Karl, 210. 
Rith'-il, a svjord, 380. 
Rog'-a-land, Norway, 281. 
Rog'-heim, Home of Battle, 289. 
R9n, vjife of JEgir, 280, 300, 

Rosk'-va, sister of Thjalfi, 141. 
Roth'-uls-fjoll, a mountain, 289. 
Roth'-uls-voU, a field, 276. 
Ruth, a river, 237. 

Sae'-far-i, father of Ulf, 222. 
Sje'-hrim-nir, a boar, 92. 
Saek'-in, a river, 95. 
Sae'-kon-ung, father of Hildi- 

gun, 223. 
Sae'-morn, a river, 275. 
Sae'-reith, ivife of Hjorvarth, 

272, 273. 
Sffi'-var-stath, an island, 261, 

Sag'-a, a goddess, 89, 302. 
Sal'-gof-nir, a cock, 329. 
Sams'-ey, an island, 160. 
Sann'-get-al, Othin, 103. 
Sath, Othin, 103. 



Sax'-i, a southern king, 467. 
Segg, son of Karl, 209. 
Sess'-ryra-nir, Freyja's hall, 91, 

Sev'-a-fjoU, S'tgrun's home, 

319, 323, 325, 327-329- 
SIf, Thor's ivife, 88, loi, 134, 

140, 143, 148, 151, 157, 168, 

180, 184. 
Sig'-ar, a Danish king, 293. 
Sig'-ar, brother of Hogni, 312, 

Sig'-ar, father of Siggeir, 455. 
Sig'-ar, Helgi's messenger, 287, 

Sig'-ars-holra, an island, 277. 
Sig'-ars-voll, a battlefield, 277, 

287, 293. 
Sig'-fath-er, Othin, 23, 103, 104, 

Sig'-geir, husband of Signy, 

302, 303, 332, 455. 
Sig'-mund, son of Sigurth, 407, 

424, 428, 429, 456, 460. 
Sig'-mund, son of Volsung, 218, 

219, 226, 270, 276, 290-295, 

301, 302, 307, 310, 311, 315, 

317, 318, 330-336, 341. 364- 

366, 368, 369, 373, 374, 388, 

389, 432, 455. 
Sig'-ny, sister of Sigmund, 270. 

290, 293, 302, 332, 333, 455. 
Sigr'-drif-a, Brynhild, 296, 384- 

386, 388, 390, 391, 403. 
Sigr"-drif-u-m9r, the Ballad of 

the Victory-Bringer, 4, 99, 

100, 119, 151, 293, 339, 344, 

356, 357. 370, 381, 384-403. 
411, 442, 444, 445, 450, 470, 

Sigr'-lin, luife of Hjorvarth, 
271-276, 287. 

Sig'-run, ixiife of Helgi, 14, 269, 
270, 289, 296, 299, 300, 306, 
307, 309-316, 318-320, 323, 
325-330, 339, 345- 

Sig'-trygg, a king, 222. 

Sig'-tyr, Othin, 494. 

Sig'-urth, son of Sigmund, 8, 
226, 234, 260, 269, 270, 273, 
277, 293, 295, 296, 303, 308, 
333, 335-359, 361-380, 382- 
389, 391, 395, 396, 400, 402- 
407. 409-412, 414-433, 435, 
437. 439-442. 445-448, 450- 
457. 460, 465, 469, 475, 476, 
481, 484, 490, 493, 513, 518, 
523, 532-534, 536-544, 546- 

Sig"-urth-a-kvith'-a en Skam'- 
ma, the Short Lay of Sigurth, 
93, 241, 308, 407, 410, 416- 
441, 443, 448-450, 453, 459, 
470, 475, 488, 493, 534, 538, 
539, 543, 547- 

Sig'-urth Ring, son of Randver, 

Sig'-yn, nuife of Loki, 16, 167, 
172, 173. 

Silf'-rin-topp, a horse, 96. 

Sind'-ri, a divarf, i6. 

Sin'-fjot-li, son of Sigmund, 
270, 290, 293, 300-304, 307, 
309, 318, 321, 322, 332-335- 



Sin'-ir, a horse, 96. 

Sin'-mor-a, a giantess, 243, 245- 

Sin'-rjoth, ivife of Hjorvarth, 
272) 273. 

Sith, a river, 95. 

Sith'-gran-i, Othin, 185. 

Sith'-hott, Othin, 103. 

Sith'-skegg, Othin, 103. 

Skaf'-ith, a divarf, 8. 

Skald"-skap-ar-mal, the Trea- 
tise on Poetics, 189, 192, 221, 

274, 359. 370, 538, 547- 
Skat'-a-Iund, a forest, 445. 
Skath'-i, a goddess, 90, 108, 

128, 152, 157, 167, 168, 172, 

180, 228. 
Skegg'-jold, a Valkyrie, 99. 
Skeith'-brim-ir, a horse, 96. 
Skek'-kil, father of Skurhild, 

Skelf'-ir, a king, 221. 
Skilf'-ing, Othin, 105, 221. 
Skilf'-ings, descendants of 

Skelfir, 221, 223. 
Skin'-fax-i, a horse, 71, 96. 
Skirf'-ir, a dnvarf, 8. 
Skirn'-ir, Freyr's servant, 107- 

115, 119, 120, 152. 
Skirn"-is-m9r, the Ballad of 

Skirnir, 21, 22, 78, 86, 88, 101, 

107-121, 126, 149, 152, 162, 

163, 165, 174, 175, 193, 2i8, 

228, 282, 360. 
Skith'-blath-nir, a ship, loi, 

Skjold, a Danish king, 221. 

Skj6ld"-ung-a-sag'-a, the Saga 

of the Skjoldungs, 216. 
Skjold'-ungs, descendants of 

Skjold, 221-223. 
Skog'-ul, a Valkyrie, 14, 99. 
Skoll, a wolf, 18, 81, 93, 100. 
Skor'-u-strond, home of Varin, 

Skrym'-ir, a giant, 122, 130, 

170, 171. 
Skuld, a Norn, 9. 
Skuld, a Valkyrie, 14. 
Skur'-hild, daughter of Skek- 

kil, 224. 
Slag'-fith, brother of Vblund, 

Sleip'-nir, Othin's horse, 97, 

102, 126, 160, 196, 230, 342, 

Slith, a river, t6, 95. 
Smith, son of Karl, 209. 
Snae'-fjoll, a mountain, 293. 
Sn»v'-ar, son of Hogni, 449, 

487, 509, 517- 
Snor, vuife of Karl, 209. 
Snot, daughter of Karl, 210. 
Sogn, a bay, 305. 
Sjg'-u-nes, a cape, 302. 
Sokk'-mim-ir, a giant, 104. 
S6kk'-va-bekk, Saga's divelling, 

88, 89. 
Sol, Sun, 74, 75, 79. 
Sol'-ar, son of Hogni, 449, 

487, 509, 517- 
Sol'-bjart, father of Svipdag, 

Sol'-bllnd-i, a dwarf, 241. 



Sol'-fjoll, a mountain, 293. 
Sol'-heim-ar, Hothbrodd's 

home, 304. 
Sorl'-i, son of Jonak, 361, 439, 

536, 538. S¥>, 545. 546. 548- 

550, 552-555. 
Spar'-ins-heith, Sfarin's Heath, 

Spor'-vit-nir, a horse, 306. 
Sprak'-ki, daughter of Karl, 

Sprund, daughter of Karl, 210. 
Stafns'-nes, a cape, 298. 
Stark'-ath, son of Granmar, 

316, 319, 320. 
Stor'-verk, father o'f Starkath, 

Strond, a river, 95. 
Styr'-kleif-ar, a battlefield, 319, 

Sun, son of Jarl, 214. 
Surt, a giant, 18, 20-22, 73, 82, 

no, 165, 243, 376. 
Suth'-ri, a dwarf, 6. 
Sut'-tung, a giant, 32, 50-52, 

"7. 187, 193. 
Svaf'-nir, a king, 273-275, 278. 
Svaf'-nir, a serpent, 98. 
Svaf'-nir, Othin, 105. 
Svafr'-thor-in, Mengloth's 

grandfather, z^i. 
Sval'-in, a shield, 100, 394. 
Svan, father of Soefari, 222. 
Svan'-hild, daughter of Sigurth, 

226, 339, 407, 437, 439, 447, 

448, 537. 538, 540-542, 546, 


Svan'-ni, daughter of Karl, 

Svar'-ang, a giant, 131. 
Svar'-in, a hill, 300, 316, 317. 
Svar'-ri, daughter of Karl, 210. 
Svart"-alf-a-heim', the 'world 

of the dark elves, 3, 187. 
Svart'-hofth-i, a magician, 229. 
Svath"-il-far'-i, a stallion, 102, 

159, 160, 196, 230. 
Svav'-a, daughter of Eylimi, 

14, 270, 271, 276-278, 282, 

284, 285, 287-289, 311, 313, 

335. 339, 345. 
Svav'-a, luife of Sakonung, 223. 
Svav'-a-land, Svafnir's coun- 
try, 273, 275, 276, 278. 
Svegg'-juth, a horse, 304, 305. 
Svein, son of Jarl, 214. 
Sver"-ris-sag'-a, the Saga of 

Sverrir, 370. 
Svip'-al, Othin, 103. 
Svip'-dag, son of Solbjart, 234- 

236, 238-250. 
Svip"-dags-m9l', the Ballad of 

Svipdag, 60, 81, 154, 234-251, 

350, 388, 441, 472. 
Svip'-uth, a horse, 304, 305. 
Svith'-rir, Othin, 104. 
Svith'-ur, Othin, 104. 
Svi'-ur, a diuarf, 7. 
Svol, a river, 95. 
Svps'-uth, father of Summer, 

Sylg, a river, 95. 



Thakk'-rath, Nithuth's thrall, 

Thegn, son of Karl, 209. 
Thekk, a diuarf, 7. 
Thekk, Othin, 103. 
Thir, ivife of Thrall, 206. 
Thith"-reks-sag'-a, the Saga of 

Theoderich, 252, 254, 262, 

265, 267, 268, 359, 410, 426, 

Thjalf'-i, Thor's servant, 126, 

127, 133, 141, 149- 
Thjaz'-i, a giant, 89, 90, 128, 

152, 167, 168, 17s, 228. 
Thjoth'-mar, father of Thjoth- 

rek, 466, 467. 
Thj6th'-num-a, a river, 95. 
Thjoth'-rek, Theoderich, 451, 

465-467, 517. 
Thjoth'-ror-ir, a dwarf, 66. 
Thj6th'-var-a, Mengloth's 

handmaid, 248. 
Thjoth'-vit-nir, Skoll, 93. 
Thol, a river, 95. 
Tholl'-ey, an island, 282. 
Thor, a god, 12, 23, 24, 82, 83, 

88, 93i 94, 96, 121-149, 151, 

152, 168-171, 174, 176, 178- 

180, 182-193, 219, 228, 234, 

303, 394- 
Thor'-a, daughter of Hokon, 

419, 454, 455- 
Thor'-a, tvife of Dag, 222, 454. 
Thor'-in, a divarf, 7. 
Thor'-ir, follower of Hrolf, 


Thors'-nes, a cape, 303. 
ThrJell, son of Rig, 205, 206. 
Thrain, a divarf, 7. 
Thrith'-i, Othin, 103. 
Thror, a dwarf, 7, 
Thror, Othin, 104. 
Thruth, a Valkyrie, 99. 
Thruth, daughter of Thor, 184. 
Thruth'-gel-mir, a giant, 76, 

Thruth '-heim, Thor's home, 88. 
Thryra, a giant, 174, 176, 177, 

Thrym'-gjol, a gate, 241. 
Thrym'-heim, Thjazi's home, 

89, 90. * 
Thryms'-kvith-a, the Lay of 
Thrym, 12, 82, 107, 122, 128, 
129, 143, 159, 166, 169, 174- 
183, 185, 195, 210, 252, 274, 
Thund, a river, 93. 
Thund, Othin, 63, 105. 
Thuth, Othin, 103. 
Thyn, a river, 95. 
Tind, a berserker, 225. 
Tot"-rug-hyp'-ja. daughter of 

Thrall, 207. 
Tron"-u-bein'-a, daughter of 

Thrall, 207. 
Tron'-u-eyr, Crane-Strand, 

Tveg'-gi, Othin, zt,. 
Tyr, a god, 18, 140-143, 147- 
149, 152, 163, 164, 228, 391. 
Tyrf'-ing, a berserker, 225. 



Ulf, folloiver of Hrolf, 224. 
Ulf, son of Safari, 222. 
Ulf'-dal-ir, Volund's home, 254, 

255. 257. 259- 
Ulf'-run, mother of Heimdall, 

Ulf'-sjar, a lake, 254, 255. 
Ull, a god, 88, icxj, 228, 494. 
Un"-a-vag'-ar, a harbor, 300. 
Un'-i, a divarf, 247. 
Urth, a Norn, 9, 52, 96, 236, 

250, 251. 
Ut'-garth-a=Lok'-i, a giant, 

122, 130. 
Uth, daughter of ^gir, 323, 

Uth, Othin, 103. 

Vaf'-thruth-nir, a giant, 68-83. 

Vaf"-thruth-nis-m9r, the Bal- 
lad of Vafthruthnir, 4, 5, 21, 
68-84, 99. 100, 115, 116, 131, 
141, 149, 152, 174, 183, 192, 
242, 247, 360, 368, 375, 376, 

Vak, Othin, 105. 
Val'-a-skjolf, Othin's home, 88. 
Val'-bjorg, Grimhild's land, 

Vald'-ar, a Danish king, 456, 

Val'-fath-er, Othin, 3, 12, 104. 
Val'-grind, a gate, 93. 
Val'-hall, Othin's hall, 3, 14, 

15, 25, 79, 88, 89, 92-94, 218, 

220, 232, 325, 326, 441, 474, 

480, 483. 

Val'-i, a god, 15, 82, 198, 227, 

228, 236. 
Val'-i, son of Loki, 16, 167, 172, 

Val'-Iand, Slaughter-Land, 129, 

136, 254, 255, 443- 
Val'-tam, father of Vegtam, 

Vam, a river, 165. 
Van'-a-heim, home of the 

Wanes, 3, 187. 
Vand'-ils-ve, a shrine, 324. 
Van'-ir, the Wanes, i, 10. 
Var, a dii^arf, 247. 
Var'-in, a Norwegian king (f), 

281, 302. 
Var'-ins-fjord, a bay, 298, 299. 
Var'-kald, father of Vindkald, 

Vath'-gel-mir, a river, 360. 
Ve, brother of Othin, 4, 26, 

Veg'-dras-il, a dwarf, 247. 
Veg'-svin, a river, 95. 
Veg'-tara, Othin, 195, 197, 199. 
Veg"-tams-kvith'-a, the Lay of 

Vegtam, 195. 
Vel"-ents-sag'-a, the Saga of 

Velent, 252. 
Ver'-a-tyr, Othin, 87, 88. 
Ver'-land, Land of Men, 136. 
Verth'-and-i, a Norn, 9. 
Vestr'-i, a dwarf, 6. 
Vestr'-sal-ir, Rind's home, 198. 
Vethr'-fol-nir, a hawk, 97. 
Ve'-ur, Thor, 142, 144, 145. 
Vif, daughter of Karl, 210. 



Vig'-blJer, Helgi's horse, 325. 
Vig'-dal-ir, Battle-Dale, 324, 

Vigg, a divarf, 7. 
Vig'-rith, a field, 73, 376. 
Vil'-i, brother of Othin, 4, 26, 

Vil'-meith, a diuarf (?), 229. 
Vil'-mund, lover of Borgny, 

Vin, a river, 95. 
Vin'-bjorg, Grimhild's land, 

Vind'-alf, a divarf, 7. 
Vind'-heim, Wind-Home, 25, 

Vind'-kald, Svipdag, 240. 
Vind'-lj6n-i, Vindsval, 75. 
Vind'-sval, father of Winter, 

Ving'-i, Atli's messenger, 448, 

482, 501, 502, 510, 512-51+. 

Ving'-nir, Thor, 82, 135, 174. 
Ving'-skorn-ir, a horse, 384. 
Ving'-thor, Thor, 135, 174, 185, 

Vin'-p, a river, 95. 
Virf'-ir, a divarf, 8. 
Vit, a divarf, 7. 
Vith, a river, 95. 
Vith'-ar, a god, 23, 82, 83, 91, 

152, 15s, 156, 164, 170, 228. 
Vith'-ga, son of Volund, 268. 
Vith'-i, Fithar's land, 91. 
Vith'-of-nir, a cock, 243, 245, 


Vith'-olf, a divarf (?), 229. 

Vith'-rir, Othin, 160, 295. 

Vith'-ur, Othin, 104. 

Vpf'-uth, Othin, 105. 

Vols'-ung, father of Sigmund, 
218, 219, 226, 270, 293, 302, 
307, 310, 332-334. 366, 421- 

Vols"-ung-a-sag'-a, the Saga of 
the Volsungs, 218, 226, 270, 
276, 297, 299, 301, 332-334. 
336. 340, 342, 345, 349, 350. 
352. 353, 356, 361, 365, 366, 
368, 370, 371, 373, 375, 377- 
379, 381, 383, 386, 391, 395, 
39*5, 399, 400, 402, 403, 405, 
407, 410-412, 418, 419, 425, 
427, 433, 438, 440, 448, 450, 
453, 455-458, 465, 469, 477, 
478, 480, 486, 487, 500, 506, 
508, 512-S14, 518-522, 525- 
530, 532, 534, 537, 538, 543, 
549. 550, 553, 554. 

Vols'-ungs, descendants of 
Volsung, 269-272, 290-292, 
306-311, 318, 319, 332, 333, 
339, 421, 422, 425, 428. 

Vol'-und, a smith, 252-262, 264- 
268, 527. 

Vol"-und-ar-kvith'-a, the Lay 
of Volund, 129, 252-268, 296, 
303, 319, 437, 443, 444, 47', 
485, 493, 527- 

Vol"-u-spp', the Wise-Wom- 
an's Prophecy, 1-28, 52, 61, 
62, 68, 69, 73-75, 77, 78, 80- 
83, 89-91, 93, 95-97, 99-102, 



io8, no, II2-II5, 129, 136, Ylf'-ings, a Danish race, 221, 

140, 14s, 146, 152, 154, »56, 291, 292, 301, 305, 307, 311, 

160-164, i66, 170, 172-174. 313-315, 329. 

176, 178, 179, 186, 188, 195, Ylg, a river, 95. 

196, 198, 200, 203, 217, 218, Yra'-ir, a giant, 4, 6, 17, 74, 76, 

220, 223, 227-232, 236, 242, 77, 100, 229, 242. 

243, 245, 247, 254, 276, 291, Yng {or Yng'-vi), son of Half - 

293. 296, 314, 319, 359, 360, dan the Old, 221, 307, 308, 

375. 393, 394, 4i6, 444, 508, 364, 365. 

542. Yng"-Hng-a-sag'-a, the Saga of 
Vpn, a river, 95. the Ynglings, 160, 163. 

Vond, a river, 95. Yng'-Hngs, descendants of 
Vpr, a goddess, 181. Yng, 221, 223, 307. 

Yng'-vi, a dwarf, 8. 

Y'-dal-ir, Ull's home, 88. Yng'-vi, son of Hring, 306. 

Ygg, Othin, 70, 105, 140, 384. Yng'-vi, Yng, 22i, 307, 308, 
Ygg'-dras-il, the ivorld-ash, i, 364, 365. 

3, 4, 9, 12, 17, 20, 27, 60, 62, Ys'-ja, daughter of Thrall, 

81, 94, 96-98, 102, 242, 243. 207. 


Publications of 


Committee on Publications 

William Witherle Lawrence^ Professor of English 
in Columbia University, Chairman 

John A. Gade^ author of Charles the XII 

Hanna Astrup Larsen^ Editor The American-Scandi- 
navian Review 

Henry Goddard Leach, Editor The Forum 

Charles S. Peterson, Publisher, Chicago 


I. Comedies by Holberg: Jeppe of the Hill, The 
Political Tinker, Erasmus Montanus 

Translated by Oscar James Campbell, Jr., and Frederic Schenck 

II. Poems by Tegner: The Children of the Lord's 

Supper and Frithiofs Saga 

Translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and W. Lewery 

III. Poems and Songs by Bjornstjerne Bjornson 

Translated in the original metres, with an Introduction and Notes, 
by Arthur Hubbell Palmer 

IV. Master Olof, by August Strindberg 

An historical play, translated, with an Introduction, by Edwim 


[ 585 ] 

V. The Prose Edda, by Snorri Sturluson 

Translated from the old Icelandic, with an Introduction and 
Notes, by Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur 

VI. Modern Icelandic Plays, by Johan Sigurjons- 
son: Eyvind of the Hills and The Hraun Farm 

Translated by Henninge Krohn Schanche 

VII. Marie Grubbe: A Lady of the Seventeenth 
Century, by J. P. Jacobsen 

An historical romance, translated, with an Introduction, by 
Hanna Astrup Larsen 

VIII. Arnljot Gelline, by Bjornstjerne Bjornson 
A Norse Epic, translated by William Morton Payne 

IX. Anthology of Swedish Lyrics, from 1750 to 

Selections from the greatest of Swedish lyrics, translated by 
Charles Wharton Stork 

X & XI. Gosta Berling's Saga, by Selma Lagerlof 

The English translation of Lillie Tudeer, completed and care- 
fully edited 

XII. Sara Videbeck (Det gar an), and The 
Chapel, by C. J. L. Almquist 

A sentimental journey with a practical ending, and the tale of a 
curate, translated, with an Introduction, by Adolph Burnett 

XIII. Niels Lyhne, by J. P. Jacobsen 

A psychological novel, translated, with an Introduction, by 
Hanna Astrup Larsen 

XIV. The Family at Gilje: A Domestic Story of 
the Forties, by Jonas Lie 

Translated by Samuel CornN Eastman^ with an Introduction by 
Julius Emil Olson 


XV & XVI. The Charles Men, by Verner von 

Tales from the exploits of Charles XII, translated by Charles 
Wharton Stork, with an Introduction by Fredrik Book 

XVII. Early Plays: CaUline, The Warrior's Bar- 
row, Olaf Liljekrans, by Henrik Ibsen. 

Translated by Anders Orbeck 

XVIII. The Book about Little Brother: A Story 
of Married Life, by Gustaf af Geijerstam 

Translated, with an Introduction, by Edwin Bjorkman 

XIX. A Book of Danish Verse 

Selections from the works of Danish Poets from Oehlenschlager to 
Johannes V. Jensen. Translated in the original metres by S. 
Foster Damon and Robert Silliman Hillyer. Selected and 
annotated by Oluf Friis 

XX. Per Hallstrom: Selected Short Stories 

A collection of tales by Sweden's great master of the short story. 
Translated, with an Introduction, by F. J. Fielden 

Price $2.00 each 

XXI & XXII. The Poetic Edda 

A complete metrical version of the Poetic or Elder Edda, includ- 
ing the Lays of the Gods and the Lays of the Heroes, translated 
from the Icelandic with a General Introduction and Notes by 
Henry Adams Bellows. Two volumes bound as one. 


I. The Voyages of the Norsemen to America 

A complete exposition, with illustrations and maps, by William 
HovGAARD Price $7.50 

II. Ballad Criticism in Scandinavia and Great 
Britain during the Eighteenth Century 

A comparative study, by Sigurd Bernhard Hustvedt 

Price $5.00 
[ 587 ] 

III. The King's Mirror 

A famous treatise, translated from the Norwegian of the thir- 
teenth century, with an Historical Introduction, by Laurence 
Marcellus Larson Price $5.00 

IV. The Heroic Legends of Denmark 

Revised and expanded for this edition by the author, the late 
Axel Olrik, in collaboration with the translator, Lee M. Hol- 
lander Price $5.00 

V. Scandinavian Art: A Survey of Swedish Art, 
by Carl G. Laiirin; Danish Art in the Nineteenth 
Century, by Emil Hannover; Modern Norwegian 
Art, by Jens Thiis; Introduction bv Christian 

The first comprehensive discussion of the artistic production of 
the three Northern nations; in one volume of 660 pages with 375 
illustrations, including frontispiece in color. Price $8.00 


An Illustrated Magazine, presenting the progress of life and 

literature in Sweden, Denmark, and Norway 

Price $3.00 a year 

For information regarding the above publications, address the 

Secretary of the American-Scandinavian 


25 West 45th Street, New York City 



MUl ) 3 1989^